Category Archives: Events 2021-2022

The Sick Body of the Artisan: Labour, Medicine and Health in Ramazzini’s Diseases of Workers (1700)

Talk by Paola Bertucci, Yale University

Tuesday 28 April 2022, Sala degli Stemmi, Villa Salviati, 16.00 CEST

Please register on events in order to get a seat or to receive the zoom link :


The HSM working group is delighted to welcome Paola Bertucci at the EUI for a talk on her most recent research!

Abstract : Bernardino Ramazzini’s De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (On the Diseases of
Workers), was a highly successful text, commonly regarded as the first
treatise on occupational medicine. This paper situates it in the context of
early modern writings on the mechanical arts, asking what it meant for a
physician like Ramazzini to focus on the diseases of workers at that time. It
shows that the work’s novelty did not so much rest in its contents as in its
argument. While Diseases of Workers contained little new information on
how to treat workers, its argument that physicians should pay attention to
patients’ occupations was a novel and polemical one. The paper discusses
the implications of this argument for the relationship between physicians
and the state.

Paola Bertucci is a professor of history of science and medicine at Yale University. She investigates how the interactions between humans and artifacts shaped the production of natural knowledge in the early modern world. Her work revolves around the centrality of the body and the artifact in understanding the history of science, medicine and knowledge in 18th century Europe. Paola Bertucci is exploring the boundaries between the natural and the artificial, knowledge and practices, and between science, industry, and artisanship.

Amongst her previous works can be mentioned :


An event organized by Zoe Lauri, Gabriele Marcon and Tunahan Durmaz






The Myth of the “One-Sex” Body

Katherine Park, Harvard University/ Villa I Tatti

Monday 22 November 2021, 15:00 (CET), Sala degli Stemmi, Villa Salviati, hybrid mode.

Jointly organised by the History of Science and Medicine Working Group and the Queer and Feminist Studies Working Group.






Galen (129–ca. 216).
De usu partium, corporis humani libri xvii.
Basle: per A. Cratandrum and J. Bebelium, 1533.


In Making Sex (1990), Thomas Laqueur argued for a dramatic shift in Western medical understandings of sex difference circa 1800, falsely claiming that prior to this period, women were generally understood as imperfect men; their genitals trapped inside their bodies by their lack of complexional heat. In fact, the period before 1800 saw the co-existence of multiple traditions relating to genital anatomy and function, in which Arabic medical compendia played an important role, although largely ignored by Laqueur. Only one of these, which was written by the eleventh-century medical author Ibn Sīnā, transmitted without significant modification Galen’s speculative account of the genital homologies in On the Use of Parts. This was not translated into Latin until the early fourteenth century and played no part in the development of Latin European understandings of sex difference before then. Even after that point, interest in the inside/out model of the genitals was only specific to the late medieval surgical tradition. Elaborated by two sixteenth-century surgeons, Jacopo Berengario of Carpi (in Latin) and Ambroise Paré (in French), it was moribund in learned European medicine by 1600, although it continued to flourish for several decades in vernacular medical and non-medical literature as it invited the explicit discussion of sexual practices. In short, unable to read Latin, Laqueur was forced to cobble together his account using texts available in English translation, specifically Galen’s On the Use of Parts, Berengario’s Brief Introduction, and Paré’s On Monsters and Prodigies. Ignoring the 1300-year gap between Galen and the two early modern surgical writers, he assumed strict continuity between them. In this way, he recapitulated the teleological master narrative underpinning the early historiography of Western science and medicine, which was heavily invested in ignoring the Arabic medical tradition, to instead establish a tight continuity between ancient Greek medical ideas and early modern and modern European medicine. 

About the speaker : Katharine Park is Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Racliffe Professor Emerita of the History of Science at Harvard University, where she also chaired the program in Women’s Studies, 1998-2003. Her research focuses on the history of science and medicine in medieval and early modern Europe and the Mediterranean world. Her books include Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Italy (1986), Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (1998, coauthored with Lorraine Daston), Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (2006); and The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science (2006, coedited with Lorraine Daston). She is a recipient of the Pfizer and Rossiter Prizes and the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the Welch Medal of the American Association of the History of Medicine, and the Dan David Prize 2021.



Race and the Environment: Cerebral and Missionary Approaches to the Human Body

Brain images of a Simia Satyrus (Orangutan) and of a Simia Troglodytus (Chimpazee).
From Friedrich Tiedemann, « On the Brain of the Negro, Compared with That of the European and the Orang Outan », Philosophical Transactions, 1836.

On Monday 8th November, Sala del Torrino, Villa Salviati (Florence), Maxime Guttin (PhD Researcher, EUI) and Jan Becker (PhD Researcher, EUI) will present their projects on the making of racial hierarchies through the studies of the brain by European scholars (1770–1848) and the medical discourses and practices of missionaries in South-East Asia, respectively. Through their case studies, they shall particularly discuss the shifting relationship between the human body and its environment.

Racial theories and the environment share a closely intertwined history. Ethno-climatology constituted a scientific and medical topos to account for differences in human groups since Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia. In the 18th century, the key concept to account for these differences, namely race, was perceived to be fluid, determined by climate, and thus dependent on external factors. In this framework the environment was considered the major agent of bodily changes. However, during the 19th century, medical sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, and bacteriology, began to challenge this influential scholarly tradition. These novel knowledges and disciplines redefined the conceptualization of the human body, diminishing its permeability to environmental influences and rendering racial differences fixed.

German missionary physician in Eastern Africa in the 1920s. From Müller, Samuel. Der Doktor in Bumbuli. Von den Anfängen der ärztlichen Mission in Usambara, 2. expanded edition. Bethel/Bielefeld: Schriftenniederlage der Anstalt Bethel, 1928, 3.

Maxime Guttin researches how the brain became a systematic determinant of race from the last quarter of the 18th century onward. During this period, European scholars produced a vast body of anatomical and physiological literature, linking the study of the brain its various parts and functionswith racial hierarchies. In this sense, studies on the brain constituted a way to incorporate the notion of race in the body and to redefine the knowledge involved in the anthropological inquiry. However, the brain remained one determinant of race among others. 

How did studies on the brain engage with the framework of the “theories of climates”? What was their place within the broader medical discourse on the human body?  How did these studies redefine the nature of race and integrate the debate on slavery? Under which conditions were experiments on brains especially on non-European brainsfeasible? The history of the sciences of the brain thus constitutes a way to assess the growing materialization of the notion of race as well as the permanence of the environmental factors in the definition of the human body.

While scientists in Europe looked for traces of race’s nature within the human body, Christian missionaries outside of Europe experienced the alleged potency of foreign climates and environments directly. Jan Becker’s work focuses on the shifting ways French and Dutch missionaries in South-East Asia experienced their own and their communities’ bodies as well as their respective embeddedness in their surroundings. 

Did missionaries approve of the scholarly tradition of ethno-climatological theories? What knowledge about race, the environment, and medicine resulted from their religious convictions and their intercultural context? And how were scientific theories such as germ theory translated and applied in the colonies? Whereas the scope of this argument is yet to be determined, germ theory arguably split the bond between the human body and its environment. Did germ theory also influence the relationship between race and place?

The Magic of Medicine. Introducing Professor Lauren Kassell

As of September 2021, Lauren Kassel takes up the Chair in the History of Science at the European University Institute. In the years to follow, her expertise and guidance will extend the activities of the Working Group towards the field of the History of Medicine. 

What was the link between magic and medicine in the early modern times? What role did alchemy and astrology play in the history of science, and in early modern medicine especially? What are the histories of sex and reproduction? And how can we exploit the potential of digital humanities for the preservation of historical sources? These are some of the key questions informing Lauren Kassell’s research.

Lauren Kassell has taught in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University since 2000, where she is also a Fellow of Pembroke College. Kassell became Professor of History of Science and Medicine in 2018. She is on leave from September 2021, to hold the Chair of History of Science in the EUI’s Department of History and Civilisation.

Professor Kassell was a founding director of the MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society that launched in 2017, and co-director of research for Cambridge Digital Humanities from 2018 to 2021. She was a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, in May 2019, and a distinguished visiting professor in the Department of History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University from January to June 2020.

Before joining the EUI, Kassell was one of the co-applicants of the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award on Generation to Reproduction (2004–14). She was also the Director of the Casebooks Project (2008–19), a digital humanities project focused on the records of two 17th century English astrologer physicians. These are one of the largest surviving sets of private medical records in history and they represent a fascinating account of everyday life in early modern times. The casebooks have also inspired a story-driven comedy videogame, Astrologaster, for which Kassell worked as historical consultant.

As co-editor of Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day (CUP 2018), she contributes to a long-term account of how modern “reproduction”—an abstract process of perpetuating living organisms—replaced the old “generation”—the active making of humans, beasts, plants, and minerals.

“As a historian of science and medicine, my work has been attentive to different sorts of voices and questioned the scopes and scales with which we think about the past,” says Kassell.

She is currently writing Astrology: A Very Short Introduction for Oxford University Press, and beginning to develop a pair of projects.

“I am completing a small book on the whole history of astrology and launching two new projects. How to Live Forever brings together disparate approaches to ageing and the end of life to explore ‘prolongevity thinking’. Second, as prospective General Editor of The Cambridge History of Medicine, 6 volumes, I have assembled a team of editors, and secured a first tranche of funding for workshops to develop a proposal for an ambitious and inclusive reassessment of what the history of medicine means.”

Welcome Professor Kassel!