Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Hilary Term 2018

Galton Inquiries 1883

Our programme for Hilary Term 2018 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Tuesday 30 January 2018 (Week 3)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.

Tuesday 13 February 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Leeds

Normalcy Interrogated: Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

The nineteenth century is often celebrated as a period of great innovation in artificial limbs. Not only did the century see tremendous developments in surgical practice, meaning that more amputees survived amputation and more survived with serviceable stumps able to support prosthetic limbs, but an attitude was also cultivated that increasingly privileged physical “normalcy”. As the concept of the “normal” body was constructed by contexts such as the emergence of bodily statistics, the growth of sciences that equated physical appearances with particular character traits, and changes in Poor Law legislation, it became more important than ever before for individuals to conceal bodily losses in order to avoid the stigma attached to physical difference. An emerging profession of prosthesis makers cashed in on both this growing consumer market and wider taste for physical “wholeness”—an explicit constituent of “normalcy”—by producing sophisticated artificial limbs designed to conceal limb loss (aesthetically and functionally). The products of the most successful of these limb makers, such as A. A. Marks and Frederick Gray, were celebrated by journalists and advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of such high spirits surrounding the achievements of artificial limbs, literary representations of prostheses tended to be more critical of both the efficacy of and logic underpinning such devices. Two examples of a texts that complicated the developing hegemony of physical “wholeness”—as well as the importance placed on concealing physical difference—were the sensation-fiction short stories “Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand” (1862) by Robert William Buchanan and “Prince Rupert’s Emerald Ring” (1895) by T. Lockhart. In this talk, I will argue that texts such as these challenged the status quo by presenting sensory critiques of hand prostheses and questioning the demand for them to enable users to “pass” as “normal”.

Tuesday 27 February 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Jana Funke, University of Exeter

‘Sexo-Aesthetic Inversion’: Transgender Subjectivities in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature and Science

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Much scholarship on the history of sexual science in relation to trans history has tended to focus on two related areas of sexological activity: the invention of diagnostic categories to produce fixed and stable identities, and the development of surgical and hormonal technologies to alter the physical appearance of trans bodies over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, sexual science is mainly remembered for implementing a medicalized framework that produced rigid diagnostic labels and put emphasis on the physical or somatic aspects of trans experience. This paper presents an alternative account of the relation between trans history and sexual science by focusing on a slightly earlier historical period, the decades between 1880 and 1920. At a time when surgical and hormonal interventions were not yet within immediate medical reach, understandings of what is nowadays described as trans identity emerged through sustained dialogue between scientific and literary writers who shared ideas concerning the role of Einfühlung (empathy), fantasy, dreams, the imagination and creativity in enabling an individual to experience and achieve cross-gender identification. Starting with British sexologist Havelock Ellis’s concept of ‘sexo-aesthetic inversion’ and Ellis’s exchange with modernist writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) in the late 1910s, the paper works backwards to trace the intellectual roots of the scientific-literary framing of trans subjectivities. These include late nineteenth-century scientific studies of colour hearing, sense perception and aesthetics as well as works by literary authors like Olive Schreiner, Vernon Lee and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod to name but a few. Through its investigation of this earlier moment, the paper moves across the Victorian-Modernist divide to illuminate previously overlooked forms of exchange between literary and sexual scientific writings and to offer an alternative account of modern trans history.

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Victorian Scientists and Periodicals

In a new series of blog posts, ConSciCom researchers will share the little-known periodicals and personalities they’ve uncovered in the course of their research.

Medical Mirror (1864-70)

Alison Moulds

Medical Mirror 1

An advertisement for the Medical Mirror, which appeared in the BMJ (1866).

The Medical Mirror was a general medical monthly, published in London. It was originally edited by metropolitan physician William Abbotts Smith. In July 1866, editorship passed to his colleague Alexander Thorburn Macgowan, who had served as Staff-Surgeon in the 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry. Three years later, Macgowan retired and sold the copyright of the journal.[1] The Mirror’s last editor – who oversaw production between September 1869 and December 1870 – was anonymous and has not been identified.

In his 1864 opening address, Abbotts Smith announced that his aim was ‘the production of a cheap and useful serial’. He suggested that, while the Mirror would be ‘essentially a Review’, it would also contain ‘information on current topics of professional interest’. Essentially, he pitched it as occupying an ‘intermediate position’ between news-oriented medical weeklies such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal and the more voluminous quarterly reviews.[2]

Medical Mirror 2

The journal’s opening address following its 1869 rebranding.

In May 1869, the Mirror rebranded itself, moving to a format which more closely resembled that of a magazine. Macgowan suggested that he had been advised to bring out the periodical ‘in a form more consistent with the progressive times we live in, and at a price more consistent with the modest earnings of the general practitioner’.[3] The cover price dropped to 4s per annum (it was previously priced at 12s).

Throughout its run, the journal proudly proclaimed its independence and commitment to representing the interests of rank-and-file medical practitioners. Its first address emphasised that it was ‘unfettered by the influence of any clique or individuals’ and ‘blinded by no feelings of animosity towards any other Medical Journal’. It affirmed: ‘we start upon neutral, and […] thoroughly independent grounds’.[4] It sought to differentiate itself from journals known for their bitter rivalries, such as the radical Lancet and conservative London Medical Gazette. In 1869, the rebranded Mirror reassured its readers that it remained progressive in outlook, that it had ‘always adopted a cosmopolitan platform – free from bigotry, cliquism, and intolerance’ and that it ‘advocated the rights of the many, and the principles of free-trade’. However, it acknowledged that its calls for medical reform had now become widely accepted among the profession and the public. The journal represented itself as an ‘organ of independent thought and progress, bound only by the happy rules of unsectarian Christianity’.[5]

The Mirror printed a range of articles relevant to the experiences of general practitioners. It enthusiastically promoted the cottage hospital movement, which it saw as a means of elevating the status of country doctors. In 1859, surgeon Albert Napper converted a cottage into a hospital in Surrey. This spearheaded a movement, which saw houses adapted into small, rural hospitals and dispensaries altered to include inpatient facilities. These cottage hospitals were modelled on provincial general hospitals but staffed by general practitioners.[6] The Mirror featured various articles on the movement, including a report by Napper which emphasised that the hospitals played a crucial role in ‘the alleviation of the sufferings of the poor’ and in raising the profile of the country practitioner. Recognising that a hospital appointment was ‘always considered a sufficient guarantee of high professional attainments’ among affluent private patients, Napper suggested that ‘in the absence of any such means of affording proof of his ability, the country surgeon is too frequently regarded with distrust’.[7] The Mirror valorised the role of rural and provincial general practitioners. In one article on ‘The Country Doctor and His Work’, it affirmed that, ‘[t]here should be no better friend to the public than the man who, at all times, in all seasons, is ready to risk his own life in trying to save theirs’.[8]

Significantly, the journal also became interested in women’s rights under the auspices of its final editor, whose identity unfortunately remains unknown. When Macgowan was at the helm, the Mirror had commented on women’s education in the US. It expressed concern that in Boston, where ‘the rights of women have been for some time fully recognised’, the birth rate was steadily diminishing. It cautioned that women should not ‘neglect a department of usefulness for which Nature has peculiarly fitted them’, a reference to childrearing.[9] Under the next editor, the journal adopted a more liberal agenda and became an early supporter of the medical woman movement in Britain. An editorial on ‘Female Physicians’ maintained that ‘women have a perfect right to every facility for the study of medicine now enjoyed by men’. This article positioned the Mirror as more progressive than its contemporaries. It derided the BMJ for its ‘medieval notions concerning women’ and the Medical Times and Gazette for its ‘pseudo-scientific dogmas’ about women’s ‘physical and mental capacity’.[10]

This interjection was part of a broader sympathy for women’s rights which emerged in the journal. Another piece scathingly suggested that a BMJ journalist read ‘J.S. Mill’s judicious, enlightened, and enlightening work on the “The Subjection of Women”’, and the journal stridently opposed the ‘degrading and demoralizing influence’ of the Contagious Diseases Acts.[11] Since the Mirror ceased publication in 1870, we cannot know whether this positive coverage of the woman question would have been sustained. Perhaps the journal’s increasingly bold and liberal stance rendered it unpopular with medical readers and ultimately contributed to its demise.

[1] [Untitled], Medical Mirror, 1 September 1869, p. 113.

[2] ‘Address’, Medical Mirror, January 1864, pp. 1-3.

[3] ‘Address to the Readers of the Medical Mirror’, Medical Mirror, 1 May 1869, p. 3.

[4] ‘Address’, p. 3.

[5] ‘Address to the Readers’, p. 3.

[6] For a history of the cottage hospital movement see Steven Cherry, ‘Change and Continuity in the Cottage Hospitals c. 1859-1948: The Experience in East Anglia’, Medical History, 36 (July 1992), 271-89.

[7] Albert Napper, ‘On the Advantages Desirable to the Medical Profession and to the Public from the Establishment of Village Hospitals’, Medical Mirror, January 1864, pp. 20-4 (p. 22).

[8] ‘The Country Doctor and his Work’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1870, p. 195.

[9] ‘The Rights of Women’, Medical Mirror, August 1866, p. 506.

[10] ‘Notes and Comments: Female Physicians’, Medical Mirror, 1 December 1869, p. 173.

[11] ‘Notes and Comments: Syphilography for Ladies’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1869, p. 154. ‘Prostitution: The Contagious Diseases Acts’, Medical Mirror, 1 November 1869, pp.  155-7 (p. 157).

Join us for a Contagion Camerata -February 2nd, 2018

Local students have been working with Dr John Traill (University of Oxford) to compose musical pieces about science and medicine. For inspiration, the students attended the Contagion Cabaret at Oxford’s Curiosity Carnival in September.

Hear their compositions in a showcase at St Anne’s College in February. Details below.

2 February 2018
6:30 pm
Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre
St Anne’s College, Oxford

No booking required. Free entry.

 

 

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Hilary Term 2018

Galton Inquiries 1883

Our programme for Hilary Term 2018 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Tuesday 30 January 2018 (Week 3)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.

 

Tuesday 13 February 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Leeds

Normalcy Interrogated: Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

The nineteenth century is often celebrated as a period of great innovation in artificial limbs. Not only did the century see tremendous developments in surgical practice, meaning that more amputees survived amputation and more survived with serviceable stumps able to support prosthetic limbs, but an attitude was also cultivated that increasingly privileged physical “normalcy”. As the concept of the “normal” body was constructed by contexts such as the emergence of bodily statistics, the growth of sciences that equated physical appearances with particular character traits, and changes in Poor Law legislation, it became more important than ever before for individuals to conceal bodily losses in order to avoid the stigma attached to physical difference. An emerging profession of prosthesis makers cashed in on both this growing consumer market and wider taste for physical “wholeness”—an explicit constituent of “normalcy”—by producing sophisticated artificial limbs designed to conceal limb loss (aesthetically and functionally). The products of the most successful of these limb makers, such as A. A. Marks and Frederick Gray, were celebrated by journalists and advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of such high spirits surrounding the achievements of artificial limbs, literary representations of prostheses tended to be more critical of both the efficacy of and logic underpinning such devices. Two examples of a texts that complicated the developing hegemony of physical “wholeness”—as well as the importance placed on concealing physical difference—were the sensation-fiction short stories “Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand” (1862) by Robert William Buchanan and “Prince Rupert’s Emerald Ring” (1895) by T. Lockhart. In this talk, I will argue that texts such as these challenged the status quo by presenting sensory critiques of hand prostheses and questioning the demand for them to enable users to “pass” as “normal”.

Tuesday 27 February 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Jana Funke, University of Exeter

‘Sexo-Aesthetic Inversion’: Transgender Subjectivities in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature and Science

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Much scholarship on the history of sexual science in relation to trans history has tended to focus on two related areas of sexological activity: the invention of diagnostic categories to produce fixed and stable identities, and the development of surgical and hormonal technologies to alter the physical appearance of trans bodies over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, sexual science is mainly remembered for implementing a medicalized framework that produced rigid diagnostic labels and put emphasis on the physical or somatic aspects of trans experience. This paper presents an alternative account of the relation between trans history and sexual science by focusing on a slightly earlier historical period, the decades between 1880 and 1920. At a time when surgical and hormonal interventions were not yet within immediate medical reach, understandings of what is nowadays described as trans identity emerged through sustained dialogue between scientific and literary writers who shared ideas concerning the role of Einfühlung (empathy), fantasy, dreams, the imagination and creativity in enabling an individual to experience and achieve cross-gender identification. Starting with British sexologist Havelock Ellis’s concept of ‘sexo-aesthetic inversion’ and Ellis’s exchange with modernist writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) in the late 1910s, the paper works backwards to trace the intellectual roots of the scientific-literary framing of trans subjectivities. These include late nineteenth-century scientific studies of colour hearing, sense perception and aesthetics as well as works by literary authors like Olive Schreiner, Vernon Lee and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod to name but a few. Through its investigation of this earlier moment, the paper moves across the Victorian-Modernist divide to illuminate previously overlooked forms of exchange between literary and sexual scientific writings and to offer an alternative account of modern trans history.