University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wellcome Lecture in the History of Medicine > Curing diseases and exchanging knowledge: sixteenth-century physicians and their female patients

Curing diseases and exchanging knowledge: sixteenth-century physicians and their female patients

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In the sixteenth century, ‘diseases of women’ – thought to originate from their womb – and matters of generation, pregnancy and childbirth attracted growing attention in learned medical writing. So far we know very little, however, about how commonly women consulted physicians – rather than midwives and wise women – in such matters and what they could expect. Drawing on the notebooks and practice journals of sixteenth-century physicians, this lecture will examine the place of gynecological and obstetrical problems in ordinary medical practice. It will trace the ways in which physicians acquired the knowledge and the skills they needed to diagnose and treat these patients – including foetal anatomy, manual examination and the use of the speculum. And it will show that learned physicians were even prepared to take the empirical knowledge of non-academic healers and ordinary womenfolk seriously in this domain to which they traditionally had only limited access.

This talk is part of the Wellcome Lecture in the History of Medicine series.

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