Word of the Day: Quacksalver \KWAK-sal-ver\ (noun)

quacksalver \KWAK-sal-ver\, noun:
1. a charlatan.
2. a quack doctor.

And there was that quacksalver Mellowes again, with his pernicious theory that consumption was caused by an excess of oxygen.
– Patrick O’Brian, Desolation Island, 1978

Anon, we grow persuaded that he traded both eyes for hooks and beneath the roof of his friend, Prince of Hesse Cassel, this Quacksalver expired to the winding from a strange horn one overcast night at Sleswig — and doubt not that at the bar he lifted up both hands to please innocent!
– Evan S. Connell, The Alchymist’s Journal, 1991

Even more outlandish than she is, he thought. “We shall not have her degraded as some quacksalver’s drab.
– Ariana Franklin, Mistress of the Art of Death, 2007


Quacksalver comes from an early Dutch word of the same spelling referring to someone who prescribes home remedies. It is the root of the more common word quack.


Friday Evening Discourse

18 Savile Row. Burlington Gardens. W | 10 Feb 1860

Dear Mr. Faraday,

Having been unsuccessful in my attempts to obtain a ticket for Mr. Huxley’s lecture* tonight I shall esteem it a favour if you can give me one.

Believe me yours sincerely & obliged,

Joseph Toynbee

*Thomas Henry Huxley’s Friday Evening Discourse of 10 February 1860


A Digital Reader

I was invited by Karen Bourrier, the project director of Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader to write a post about a Victorian mourning ear trumpet. The digital reader is a remarkable project at the University of Western Ontario, an interdisciplinary approach to provide a collection of primary texts on physical and cognitive disability in the nineteenth century. It’s meant to be a free scholarly resource for incorporating disability studies into the classroom and teaching students how to work with primary sources (I absolutely love this!). The project has gotten started with a few wonderful posts, including on wooden legs, Thomas Edison’s talking books, ‘The Blind Beggar,’ and my own contribution on a Victorian mourning trumpet.

The project is still under construction, with an eventual goal of posting lesson plans on how to use primary sources, a timeline of disability in the nineteenth century, and a bibliography of secondary sources in nineteenth-century disability studies. Without a doubt, Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader is a remarkable contribution to not only disability studies, but on all subjects that intersect with ideas about the body, science, technology, and medicine.

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REVIEW: “Performing Medicine” by Michael Brown

Performing Medicine; Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), 254pp.

I get excited when I receive a new book that so wonderfully engages with some of the major themes covered in my dissertation, and even better, a book that nicely contextualizes the background upon which I will narrate my story of aural surgery. I’ve long been a fan of Michael Brown’s works, particularly his paper “Medicine, Quackery and the Free Market: The ‘War’ against Morison’s Pills and the Construction of the Medical Profession, c.1830-c.1850,” published in Mark Jenner and Patrick Wallis’ Medicine and the Market in England and its Colonies, c.1450-1850 (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2007). Jenner and Wallis’ anthology sought to undertake a critical examination of the term “medical marketplace” and unpack its various ambiguous meanings. Broadly focusing on the nature of the medical provision and its economic, institutional, cultural and political contexts, this work presents a series of essays that evaluate the scale, scope, and boundaries of the internal dynamics of the market for medicine. Some of the key questions addressed are: what emergences in the medical marketplace? Is the term “medical marketplace” in due of a revision, as Margaret Pelling has argued? Is medicine to be viewed as a market or an economy of health care (and is there a difference)? How do we use a model of the marketplace to historicize and analyze the structure of therapeutic practice and its complex internal and external dynamics? Should historians shift their thinking from an abstract and generalized concept as “medical marketplace” towards a more focused concept of medical goods and services? Continue reading

[CFP] Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science – Economic Aspects of Science

Call for Papers – Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science

Spontaneous Generations is an open, online, peer-reviewed academic journal published by graduate students at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto. It has produced six issues and is a well-respected journal in the history and philosophy of science and science studies.  We invite interested scholars to submit papers for our seventh issue.

We welcome submissions from scholars in all disciplines, including but not limited to HPS, STS, History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. Papers in any period are welcome.

The journal consists of four sections:

A focused discussion section consisting of short peer-reviewed and invited articles devoted to a particular theme. The theme for our seventh issue is “Economic aspects of science” (see a brief description below).  Recommended length for submissions: 1000-3000 words. A peer-reviewed section of research papers on various topics in the field of HPS. Recommended length for submissions: 5000-8000 words. A book review section for books published in the last 5 years. Recommended length for submissions: up to 1000 words. An opinions section that may include a commentary on or a response to current concerns, trends, and issues in HPS. Recommended length for submissions: up to 500 words.

Economic Aspects of Science
Nearly every discipline in science studies has considered the economics of science in some fashion. Philosophers have long looked to economics as a resource for understanding science. They have considered how individual scientists might economize time and resources in pursuing a variety of epistemic goals, and have considered how competing scientists might spontaneously organize in ways reminiscent of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. More recently philosophers have begun to consider how science’s changing economic context might be affecting scientific norms. Historians have deconstructed the “linear model” whereby scientific progress leads to technological progress, which in turn drives economic prosperity. They have also considered how science’s changing economic circumstances, from the patronage relations of the Middle Ages, to the government-driven funding of the Cold War, to the recent trend toward commercial funding, have affected its operation.  Economists have considered how science might be important for the economy and what that might imply for science policy.

We welcome short papers that explore these and other economic aspects of science, and especially welcome papers looking to make interdisciplinary connections within the economics of science. Case studies that speak to these issues are also welcome. The questions below might help in further guiding potential submissions:

·      Do philosophers, sociologists, historians, and economists interested in economic aspects of science have anything useful to say to each other?

·      What should science studies learn from the history, philosophy, or practice of economics? For example, should we be applying the results of behavioral economics to our accounts of how scientists operate? Can these lessons be applied to discussions of, for instance, the value of intellectual property as a motivating factor in scientific fields such as genomics?

·      Do, must, or should, scientific methods depend on the economic context of scientific research? For example, does the high cost of randomized controlled trials affect the expectation of repeatability in scientific experiments?

·      What role does Intellectual Property play in science and how has it changed through science’s history? Is Intellectual Property just a metaphor, or is it a significant component of an economic system of science?

·      To the extent that they were ever descriptively accurate, are Mertonian norms under threat? What does this mean for the nature of science?

·      Is it illuminating to think about science as an economic enterprise? What do we learn about science in doing so?

·      What does it mean to “commodify” scientific research? Is there a qualitative change underway in what scientists produce?

The seventh issue of Spontaneous Generations will appear in September 2013. Submissions for the seventh issue should be sent no later than March 15, 2013. For more details, please visit the journal homepage. Please distribute freely.  Apologies for cross-postings.