Article ID: CBB001213587

Empiricism in Sixteenth-Century Medical Practice: The Notebooks of Georg Handsch (2013)


Based on an analysis of some 4.000 pages of manuscript notes on ordinary medical practice which the little-known Bohemian physician Georg Handsch (1529--1578?) wrote from the late 1540s, this article traces the central place which empiricist attitudes and approaches held in mid-sixteenth-century learned medical practice. While explicit epistemological statements are rare, the very effort which Handsch put into recording thousands of observations he and other physicians around him had made, and the value they attributed to the experiences of ordinary lay persons and even empirics reflects a profound belief in the value of sensory experience and personal observation. The paper traces the uses of empiricist key terms like experientia, historia and observatio, it highlights the epistemic effects of personal observation, from confirming and challenging established notions to the creation of new general knowledge from particulars, and it suggests, in conclusion, that such brief notes on ordinary medical practice played an important role in the history of facts.

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Authors & Contributors
Crignon, Claire
Stolberg, Michael
Szczeklik, Andrzej
Lloyd-Jones, Antonia
Milosz, Czeslaw
Nobis, Heribert Maria
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Medical History
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
Archives of Natural History
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
University of Chicago Press
Gobierno de Navarra
Royal Collection Enterprises
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Philosophy of medicine
Physicians; doctors
Primary literature (historical sources)
Cusanus, Nicolaus
Vallés, Juan
Leonardo da Vinci
Zalužanský ze Zalužan, Adam
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
16th century
17th century
Early modern
John Rylands Univeristy Library of Manchester

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