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Visual tools in seventeenth-century medical education

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How did seventeenth-century physicians make use of images and other visual material within their profession? More specifically, what role was assigned to images in the process of acquiring and memorizing knowledge as part of medical education at an early modern university? While publications such as Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1536) and Johann Remmelin’s ‘flap book’ Catoptrum microcosmicum (1619) contained anatomical images that attained iconic status, further research is required to more fully comprehend how these books and their images fitted into the broader framework of early modern medical education. Furthermore, in addition to the illustrations from famous works on anatomy, other medical textbooks relied upon diagrams to convey information. Employing a small body of material consisting of student notebooks, lecture notes and texts that describe teaching circumstances, this paper aims to understand how visual tools complemented and supplemented texts in imparting medical learning to early modern physicians. For this paper, I will focus upon the English context and attempt to demonstrate how a judicious interpretation of such material leads to some answers to these questions.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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