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Alchemy and Medicine from Antiquity to the Enlightenment
22-24 September 2011
CRASSH and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
Alchemists pursued many goals, from the transmutation of metals to the preservation of health and life. These pursuits were continually informed and modified by medical knowledge, while alchemical debates about nature, generation, and the achievability of perfection in turn impacted on medicine and natural philosophy. Alchemical texts circulated in print and manuscript; in courts, in households, and in the marketplace, both reflecting and contributing to debates about the body and the natural world. Alchemy was studied by physicians, clerics, natural philosophers, merchants, artisans and aristocrats; some drawn toward theoretical speculation, others towards empirical practice.
This three-day international conference, held at Peterhouse, Cambridge, will investigate these interactions, from alchemy's development in late antiquity to its decline throughout the eighteenth century. It will ask how alchemical and medical ideas changed over time, how they reflected the experience of individual readers and practitioners, and the extent to which they responded to significant currents in intellectual, political, religious, and social life.
Plenary speakers include:
- Chiara Crisciani (Università degli Studi di Pavia)
- Andrew Cunningham (University of Cambridge)
- Hiro Hirai (Radboud University Nijmegen)
- Didier Kahn (CNRS, Paris)
- Bruce T. Moran (University of Nevada at Reno)
- William R. Newman (Indiana University)
- Michela Pereira (Università di Siena)
- Lawrence M. Principe (JohnsHopkins University)
- Nancy Siraisi (City University of New York)
- Emma Spary (University of Cambridge)
Proposals for 20 minute papers are welcomed, and the participation of postgraduate students and junior researchers is particularly encouraged (with student bursaries available). Topics might include, but are not limited, to:
- Transmission of alchemical and medical knowledge
- Elixirs and the prolongation of life
- Impact of alchemical remedies on medical practice
- Paracelsus, Van Helmont and their followers
- Shared ingredients, methods and apparatus
- Medical practitioners as alchemists
- Use of medical concepts in alchemy
- Medicine, alchemy and patronage
- Iatrochemistry vs. medical orthodoxy
- Charlatanry and fraud
- Books, recipes, and secrets
The language of the conference is English. Abstracts of 200-300 words, accompanied by a one-page CV, should be sent to Jennifer Rampling (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 May 2011.
Organised by Jennifer Rampling, Peter M. Jones and Lauren Kassell (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge), and supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CRASSH).
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