University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Toys in Monkeyland: the utility of anatomical models and medical expertise in late eighteenth-century Vienna

Toys in Monkeyland: the utility of anatomical models and medical expertise in late eighteenth-century Vienna

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In the mid-1780s the Austrian emperor Joseph II received anatomical wax models from the renowned Florentine workshop at the Museo La Specola for use at his newly founded surgico-medical academy Josephinum. Like its Tuscan counterpart, the expensive Viennese model collection raised considerable public interest after its arrival, but they also became the subject of controversy. In a public skirmish with the Josephinum’s surgeons over the public utility of their expertise, local physicians denounced the models as vulgar. They chimed in with a printed satire, Monkeyland, which eloquently ridiculed the anatomical waxes as ‘pretty toys’ and its users at the new surgeons’ academy as uncivilized ‘butcher’s apprentices’. The paper argues that surgeons eager to stress their usefulness for the state renounced the models’ utility (despite their acknowledged accuracy) in order to side with doctors’ claims to sophistication.

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

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