Thesis ID: CBB288181113

Making Anatomical Knowledge About Disease in Late Georgian Britain, from Dissection Table to the Printed Book and Beyond : Matthew Baillie's 'Morbid Anatomy' and Its Accompanying Engravings (2019)


The thesis examines the practice of morbid anatomy as it was articulated and developed in late Georgian Britain. This practice, I argue, was a particular way of investigating disease that was specifically anatomical, in contrast to much other work on disease in this period. It originated in William Hunter’s anatomy school at Great Windmill Street, and was developed partly by Hunter himself but especially through the work and publications of Matthew Baillie. At the school, Baillie learnt anatomy in the Hunterian manner, and applied these lessons to the study of disease. His major publications Morbid Anatomy (1793) and A Series of Engravings (1799–1803) clarified and promoted this practice to a wider public in text and image, and were widely circulated. In the nineteenth century, morbid anatomy came to be central to British approaches in the study of disease, distinct from the historiographically much better-known, concurrent developments in Paris. By focusing on morbid anatomy, I argue that Paris’s “birth of the clinic” was part of a wider story which had an important, and distinctive, British component. My interpretation of Baillie’s texts and activities incorporates approaches from the history of medicine, art history, and book history, thereby treating all of the various knowledge-making practices involved as vital to the development of morbid anatomy. Processes of dissection and preservation were designed to gain sensory knowledge of the diseased cadaver, and to keep that knowledge in the form of preparations; features of anatomy books were employed to present disease as anatomical; skilled artisans worked to enhance the epistemic content of Baillie’s morbid anatomy illustrations; and after criticism, Baillie modified his work to mollify his critics whilst restating the essentially anatomical nature of his work. Baillie’s work thus spanned various medical, publishing, and artistic concerns, and I explore morbid anatomy in the same way.

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Authors & Contributors
Hurren, Elizabeth T.
Mitchell, Piers D.
Bertoloni Meli, Domenico
Chaplin, Simon
Guerrini, Anita
Kausmally, Tania
Social History of Medicine
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
History of Psychiatry
Journal of the History of Collections
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Spontaneous Generations
Cornell University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Yale Center for British Art
Medical education and teaching
Medicine and society
Disease and diseases
Hunter, William
Baillie, Matthew
Hewson, William
Hunter, John
Bleuland, Janus
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, early
16th century
20th century
Great Britain
London (England)
Florence (Italy)
Reale Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale di Firenze

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