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Science in the ArchivesPasts, Presents, Futures$
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Lorraine Daston

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226432229

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226432533.001.0001

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Empiricism in the Library: Medicine’s Case Histories

Empiricism in the Library: Medicine’s Case Histories

Chapter:
(p.85) Three Empiricism in the Library: Medicine’s Case Histories
Source:
Science in the Archives
Author(s):

J. Andrew Mendelsohn

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226432533.003.0003

This chapter is about medicine’s published cases - not so much how they are written as how they are used. Medicine is shown to exemplify an often-distant relationship – temporal, spatial, cognitive – between observing and knowing. Between them stands a vast library of data, of description in the form of cases. More than a record of observations, this library is a record of their readings and re-readings. In the 16th-18th centuries, most case reports or observationes found their place in encyclopedic compilations. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, as cases came increasingly to be published in periodicals and discussed in local medical societies and reviews, “new” diseases of modern clinical medicine emerged – as case literatures. Examples include leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and Stokes-Adams disease. These processes are shown through examples from major medical centers, such as Edinburgh, Paris, London, Dublin, Vienna, and Berlin, as well as from early-modern Italian, Swiss, and German physicians. Medicine’s renaissance of observation after 1500, of “autopsia” and bedside empiricism, equally inaugurated 500 years of data-mining. Much medical research has been library research, and this has been empirical research. The library of cases was not only written knowledge. It was the written, investigable unknown.

Keywords:   case, data, disease, bibliography, periodical, library, archive, hospital medicine, clinical medicine, evidence-based medicine

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