RCSEd Library and Archives presents: Surgery and emotion in the pre-anaesthetic era: John Bell, James Gregory and the Edinburgh ‘medical war’
In 1800, the medical community of Edinburgh was convulsed by a highly public row between James Gregory, Professor of the Practice of Physic at the University, and the surgeon-anatomist John Bell. This dispute originated in a disagreement over the nature of surgical attendance at the Royal Infirmary, but, as this talk will demonstrate, it developed over the course of nearly ten years, into a much more profound discussion of the nature of surgical practice and identity. In his response to Gregory, John Bell articulated a vision of surgery as a compassionate profession rooted in the embodied experience of pain and suffering. In so doing, he sought to reshape the public image of surgery and challenge the stereotype of the surgeon as an uncaring butcher.
Dr Michael Brown is Reader in History at the University of Roehampton and the author of Performing Medicine: Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c. 1760-1850 (2011) as well as numerous articles on the history of medicine and surgery. He is currently a Wellcome Trust Investigator, leading a four-year project entitled Surgery & Emotion which explores the relations between surgery and the emotions from 1800 to the present.