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This chapter analyzes the participation of public health experts in nineteenth-century medical societies. It examines societies’ relation to urban politics and professional medical organizations by scrutinizing how these experts mediated between the worlds of science and politics, making use of medical societies in the process. The general line that runs through the chapter is a shift in the way expertise in public health was framed in the course of the century. Early and mid-nineteenth-century experts conceived of their work as the voluntary, philanthropic work of engaged citizens. For them, medical societies formed a vehicle through which they could express such citizenship. State investments in public health gradually brought forth a new class of public health professionals in the second half of the century. These new experts stressed the scientific grounding of their studies to differentiate them from popular works or lobbying efforts. Participation in urban medical societies, which increasingly defined themselves as ‘scientific’ institutions as opposed to professional organizations, allowed them to realize their ambitions. The label of public health studies as a form of ‘applied science’ proved helpful to convince both medical colleagues and politicians.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium
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The introduction highlights rarely studied aspects of medical sociability. When physicians gathered in societies to present, discuss, evaluate, publish and celebrate their studies, they followed specific rules and manners. By paying attention to the performative aspect of sociability, it becomes possible to uncover these manners and lay bare their origins in nineteenth-century civil society. Belgium is presented as a case study to this end. The presence of a liberally oriented bourgeoisie in the country’s major cities, the hesitant development of state infrastructure and the slow modernization of universities offered much room for civil engagement in the medical sciences.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium

When physicians gathered in medical societies to present, share, discuss, evaluate, publish and even celebrate their medical studies, they engaged in a community with specific practices, rules and manners. This book explores the formal and subtle ways in which such norms were set. It analyzes societies’ scientific publishing procedures, traditions of debate, (inter)national networks, and social and commemorative activities, uncovering a rich scientific culture in nineteenth-century medicine. The book focuses on medical societies in Belgium, a young nation-state eager to take its place among the European nations, in which the constitutional freedoms of press and association offered new possibilities for organized sociability. It situates medical societies within an emerging civil culture in Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp, and shows how physicians’ ambitions to publish medical journals and organize scientific debates corresponded well to the values of social engagement, polite debate and a free press of the urban bourgeoisie. As such, this book offers new insights into the close relation between science, sociability and citizenship. The development of a professional academic community in the second half of the century, which centered around the laboratory, went hand in hand with a set of new scientific codes, mirroring to a lesser extent the customs of civil society. It meant the end of a tradition of ‘civil’ science, forcing medical societies to reposition themselves in the scientific landscape, and take up new functions as mediators between specialties and as centers of postgraduate education.

This chapter highlights the role of medical societies in the circulation of anatomical objects. It shows how Belgian anatomists used societies to realize one of the most prestigious contemporary medical projects ‒ to give the young Belgian nation its own anatomical collections and traditions. Societies’ networks of correspondents allowed academics such as the Ghent professor Adolphe Burggraeve to expand their academic collections. By donating or presenting anatomical specimens, rural physicians or those from smaller cities received recognition for partaking in scientific study. In the second half of the nineteenth century, these networks changed. On the level of the participants, students and young researchers replaced private practitioners as the main providers of new specimens. In addition, an accurate scientific description was required from these providers to receive credit. Simply donating a specimen was no longer regarded as a sufficient contribution to the sciences. On the level of scientific standards, finally, the ideals of rarity, curiosity and aesthetics became superseded by accuracy and seriality ‒ a shift that reflected the growing importance of quantification in medicine as well as the rise of pathological anatomy as a scientific specialism.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium

This chapter considers societies’ shifting position in the scientific landscape during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. It measures the effects of the specialization and professionalization of medical research. Medical societies, the chapter shows, were again ‘refashioned’ during a period of intense organizational reform, comparable to the medical reforms of the 1830s and 1840s. As the relationship between ‘specialized’ and ‘general’ research fully shifted in favor of the first ‒ an evolution exemplified most clearly in the bifurcating of new, specialized research institutes ‒ societies saw their scientific role finally eroded. Yet this did not necessarily lead to their disappearance. As ‘general’ institutions, they took up new functions as mediators between the specialized disciplines and by offering postgraduate education to a broad medical community.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium

This chapter discusses medical societies’ efforts to publish scientific journals. It discusses authors’ motivations for submitting articles, reviewers’ responses and ways of criticizing, editors’ decisions to reach new audiences, and publishers’ role in the financing and spreading of these journals. The chapter starts by tracing the origins of societies’ journals, placing their emergence against the cultural backdrop of a growing uneasiness with the practice of contrefaçon or reprinting (without authors’ permission). Central to societies’ unique position in the medical press was the reviewing of studies. This allowed medical societies to differentiate their journals from others by publishing original work. In the second half of the century, scientific publishing became more exclusive. Private practitioners succeeded less and less frequently in making it through the review process. The simultaneous appearance of new specialized medical journals meant that the ‘general’ journals published by medical societies became trapped in-between a specialized and an (equally emerging) popular medical press. By the end of the century, medical societies’ role as publishing houses seemed indeed played out.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium

This chapter discusses the foundation and transformation of medical societies in the Southern Netherlands from the late eighteenth century to 1840. It explores, how the model of eighteenth-century learned societies, like other institutions of the Ancien Régime such as universities, was refashioned into a new, uniquely medical institution. Central to this refashioning was the transformation of societies’ focus on usefulness to the general public ‒ an ideal that was typical of late eighteenth-century learned culture ‒ into a more concrete promotion of science among a newly conceived professional community of physicians. The chapter analyzes shifts in societies’ membership, mission and social role against the background of shifting political regimes (respectively the Austrian, French, Dutch and Belgian authorities), which paralleled successive stages of medical reform.

in Medical societies and scientific culture in nineteenth-century Belgium

This book seeks to challenge the notion of the supremacy of the brain as the key organ of the Enlightenment. It is done by focusing on the workings of the bowels and viscera that so obsessed writers and thinkers during the long eighteenth-century. These inner organs and the digestive process acted as counterpoints to politeness and other modes of refined sociability, drawing attention to the deeper workings of the self. The book complicates the idea that discourses and representations of digestion and bowels are confined to so-called consumption culture of the long eighteenth century, in which dysfunctional bowels are categorised as a symptom of excess. It offers an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspective on entrails and digestion by addressing urban history, visual studies, literature, medical history, religious history, and material culture in England, France, and Germany. The book explores the metaphorical and symbolic connections between the entrails of the body and the bowels of the city or the labyrinthine tunnels of the mine. It then illustrates the materiality of digestion by focusing on its by-products and their satirical or epistemological manifestations. The book expounds further on the burlesque motif of the innards as it is used to subvert areas of more serious knowledge, from medical treatises to epic literature or visual representation. Finally, it focuses on drawings, engravings and caricatures which used the bowels, viscera and entrails to articulate political protest, Revolutionary tensions and subversion through scatological aesthetics, or to expose those invisible organs.

The intestinal labours of Paris

The city of Paris was born of a mineral wealth now found in the different layers of the modern city. Unlike its rival London, the French capital was built with material taken from what constitutes the hole-ridden foundations of the city. In fact, beneath the epidermis of Paris run all sorts of pipes and tunnels that are comparable to the ensemble of the circulatory, vascular, respiratory, digestive and nervous systems necessary for the life of any organism. The cemetery of the Saints Innocents had for more than ten centuries received the dead from twenty-two Parisian parishes, the corpses from the morgue and the numerous dead from the Hôtel-Dieu. While the Saints Innocents was the first cemetery from which the remains were transferred to the ossuary at La Tombe-Issoire, between December 1785 and 1814 seventeen further cemeteries took the same steps.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century

John Cleland's notoriety depends on his sexually explicit Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, a work which stimulates and celebrates the satisfaction of carnal appetites through a series of erotic encounters. However unconvincing Woman of Pleasure's 'tail-piece of morality', its paradigm of healing surfeit recurs in Cleland's Memoirs of a Coxcomb a companion piece to his infamous novel. Cleland's evocation of the low-life world of London shows the contradictory interface between desire, the aspirational and self-legitimating discourse of taste and the self-incriminating emotion of disgust. Both Cleland's dietetic writings and his fiction ostensibly lambast prodigal or voracious appetite, and counsel the conventional wisdom of control. Sir William Delamour, the eponymous 'coxcomb' or 'vain, superficial man' of Cleland's novel, has few depths, apart from the instinctive stirrings of appetite. Though a self-styled 'coxcomb' or 'vain, superficial man', Sir William is not constitutionally effeminate.

in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century