Thesis ID: CBB747870923

Paracelsus Goes East: Ottoman “New Medicine” and its Afterlife (2020)


This dissertation investigates how early modern Ottoman medical scholars viewed the concept of novelty and how it manifested itself in the socio-political domain. Appearing in the mid-seventeenth century and maintaining its substantial impact throughout the eighteenth century, ṭıbb-ı cedīd (new medicine) became a very significant concept and practice that almost all the prominent scholars of the era explored. This was the first time that discussions regarding the utilization of al/chemical ideas and practices in medical philosophy and pharmacology were introduced into the medical scholarship via a group of Ottoman scholars. In previous scholarship, this era has either been portrayed as a “transitional” period, which represented the abandonment of the “traditional medicine” for adoption of European medicine, or as a time when intriguing works were produced without yielding any substantial novelties in medical practice. Primarily by undertaking a close reading of the representative texts of the ṭıbb-ı cedīd corpus, this study demonstrates the complex interactions between the various epistemological approaches available to the Ottoman physicians as they produced the medical corpus of a new era. This study shows that the eighteenth-century scholars never disowned their Galenic heritage completely, while embracing new al/ chemical ideas. Moreover, they did not accomplish their intellectual endeavors as part of a state-sponsored Europeanization/Westernization project. This emerging corpus created fertile ground for lively discussions in Ottoman medical scholarship, which went hand in hand with the application of new curative substances, imported from various parts of the world, including, but not exclusive to the Americas. I approach these moments of critical translation and adaptation from lived aspects of medical practice, which are overlooked in current scholarship in the history of medicine that has restricted the material to the intertextual domain of books and ideas. Furthermore, this study, regards the physician as one among the artisans of the marketplace, which brings to light how their practice and profession were negotiated with the Ottoman State during the eighteenth century. Last but not least, I look at the nineteenth-century afterlife of ṭıbb-ı cedīd, when western-influenced reforms were taking place in every aspect of life and a new discourse on medicine and medical education were being introduced. I show that the Imperial Medical School (Mekteb-i Ṭıbbīyye-i Şāhāne) had an immense impact on the physicians of the era on their evaluation of their medical past, including ṭıbb-ı cedīd, and created a lineage of physician-historians who produced modernist-positivistic historiographies, which still influences medical history-writing today, especially in Turkish scholarship.

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Authors & Contributors
Brentjes, Sonja
Bycroft, Michael
Chahrour, Marcel
Chatzis, Kostas
Clericuzio, Antonio
Coquillard, Isabelle
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
British Journal for the History of Science
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
International Journal of Middle East Studies
Erasmus Publishing
Franco Angeli
Istanbul University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Medical education and teaching
Boerhaave, Herman
Helmont, Jan Baptista van
Boyle, Robert
Descartes, René
Efendi, Hekimbasi Salih
Geoffroy, Étienne-François
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
16th century
19th century
Early modern
20th century, early
Ottoman Empire
Paris (France)
Académie des Sciences, Paris
Universiteit Leiden
University of Bologna (Italy)

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