Workshop 3 – Report

Scottish and European Networks of Philosophy, Technology, Science and Health (1780-1914)


Friday 7 September 2018

Gilbert Scott Conference Suite Room 250, Main Building, University of Glasgow

The aim of the workshop was to establish how leading Scottish figures in medicine, science and technology were positioned in relation to other European thinkers and researchers, and by what means their exchanges took place. Manon Mathias welcomed participants and speakers before introducing the keynote speaker, Dr Tim Baker.

Co-organisers: Dr Manon Mathias (Glasgow) and Dr Michael Rapport (Glasgow)

Participants: Dr Tim Baker (Aberdeen); Dr Paul Barnaby (Edinburgh); Amelie Bonney (Oxford); Dr Barbara Burns (Glasgow); Mungo Campbell (Hunterian Museum); Dr Helen Cowie (York); Dr Sheila Dickson (Glasgow); Dr Philip Dunshea (Peter Lang Publishers); Julie Holder (Glasgow & National Museum of Scotland, SNNEC RA); Dr Kate Mitchell (Strathclyde; P.I.); Douglas Mitchell (Glasgow); Dr Simon Naylor (Glasgow); Dr Henriette Partzsch (Glasgow, SNNEC Core Team member)

Keynote: Dr Tim Baker (Senior Lecture, University of Aberdeen), ‘Networks, Webs, and Echoes. Scottish and European Ideas of Community in the (Very) Long Nineteenth Century’


Drawing on Cairns Craigs’ The Wealth of Nation: Scotland, Culture, and Independence (2018), the talk emphasized the importance of Scotland’s intellectual and cultural heritage and how Scottish institutions spread ‘Scottishness’ post-1707 through their intellectual communities. Baker mentioned Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), the leader of the Church of Scotland, who was criticized by Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) for being ‘ill-read’, but was nevertheless a figurehead of political and spiritual life in Scotland during the nineteenth century, purportedly influencing social change in France and publishing in Germany. His influence was apparently unidirectional and he did not read European works. He was concerned with alleviating poverty, and believed that the Church should manage self-sustaining communities and not wealthy individuals or the State. His Sermons and Discourses – which was a mixture of science, theology and economics – was translated more widely than any other book of Scottish sermons. In it, he put forward the idea that progress in scientific knowledge shows the nature of God and the development of theology. His works feature in novels where characters are portrayed reading and discussing his works. Adapting Susan Manning’s idea of texts not having a direct, chronological cause and effect influence on one another but as being analogous and relational, in her Poetics of Character: Transatlantic Encounters, 1700-1900 (2013), Baker suggested this as a useful theoretical framework through which to ‘read’ the long nineteenth century.

Baker concluded by arguing that the ease of traffic of ideas and networks between Scottish and European characters in novels from the twenty-first century began with the rise of the novel in the late seventeenth century; analogy and echoes are part of an unlimited circulation of ideas within reading communities which move past periodization and a linear development of history.

Introductory talk 1: Dr Sheila Dickson (Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow) ‘Sir Alexander Crichton’s reception of K.P. Moritz’s case studies in the German Magazine of Empirical Psychology (1783-1793)’

As with the format of the previous workshop, the keynote was followed by two introductory talks that presented interconnections between different areas of European scientific discourses. Dr Dickson discussed the first German language journal of psychology, ‘Empirical Psychology’, in which there were contributions by Scottish-born scientists and researchers, including Sir Alexander Crichton. The journal ran for ten years, and published three volumes per annum. Crichton was born in 1763, and studied medicine at Edinburgh, which was world-famous for medicine. He was tutored by James Gregory and William Cullen, and completed his PhD at Leiden University. A prominent physician, he treated various monarchs, and travelled widely. Crichton was concerned with the physical manifestations linked to mental illness, and developed the idea of a physiological etiology based on a malfunction of the nervous system in the brain and linked with abdominal disease. Philippe Pinel engaged with Crichton’s ideas in Pinel’s Traité of 1801, and both were at the vanguard of the emergence of psychiatry as a profession. Dickson discussed how Crichton felt that none of the German contributors to the journal had written fully or systematically on mental illness. He highlighted that the journal contained a collection of case studies that provided information on different patients, but without any further comment or analysis. There were stories of illness without any theorising and ‘moralizing’, which was the aim of the journal. Eventually, this could provide a basis for analysis, and Crichton took on this task. Crichton brought the journal into greater awareness among the medical professionals and developed methods for analyzing the case studies. Through a close reading of the journal, what emerges is an emphasis on empirical observation and tracing the influences of childhood experience and education on the development of mental illness. The reception of the journal in Britain was mediated through Crichton’s work, and Crichton ensured the international reception of the journal (for example, he is cited by a physician in Vienna). Thanks to Crichton, the journal eventually became a treasure trove of well-presented and detailed case studies, and Crichton set the standard. His ideas were discussed throughout the nineteenth century and went on up to Freud.


Introductory mini-talk 2a: Dr Michael Rapport (Reader, University of Glasgow) ‘A tale of two constructions in 1889: the building of the Eiffel Tower and of Scotland’s Forth Bridge’

The co-organisers each presented mini-introductory talks to stimulate discussion. Dr Rapport discussed the year 1889 and the building of two constructions: the iconic Eiffel Tower and Scotland’s Forth Bridge. Both were feats of engineering, symbols of modernity, and part of aesthetic controversies. Both were celebrated as symbols of international competition, friendship and national pride. The Forth Bridge was made of steel, which was a new building material and had only just become legal to use in Britain. It was mainly constructed on site; what was new was the scale and weight of the bridge. The Eiffel Tower was made of iron, and it was constructed off site then assembled ‘mecano’ style. The height of the tower affected design decisions – the scale and height were new, but very light for its size. It was built to take much greater wind pressures than the Forth Bridge. The Forth Bridge allowed for speedier travel, but the Eiffel Tower had less practical value, so things were added such as a radio mast. It was a Republican monument, and one could see the whole of Paris from the top of it. Some artists criticized it as ‘ugly’, and the same reaction came from opponents of the Forth Bridge. Both were built in a sense of friendly rivalry of science, engineering and progress, and were ‘responses’ to what was happening in America.


Introductory mini-talk 2b: Dr Manon Mathias (Lecturer, University of Glasgow) ‘An Early Microbiome Model? Autointoxication in France and Scotland’

Dr Mathias discussed the two nations that come up in relation to the topic of microbiomes and autointoxication, namely: Scotland and France, which were both world leading in terms of psychiatry in the nineteenth century. Microbiomes are bacteria that live in and on the human body, mainly in the gut. Mathias’s talk discussed how theories of intoxication from the inside through a person’s own waste and the organisms that live in the digestive tract were being linked to modern civilized lifestyles, e.g. speed of eating or sedentary lifestyles. As far back as the early nineteenth century, physicians were making comparisons between modern-day Western lifestyles and digestive health in so-called ‘savage’, ‘primitive’ cultures. The Scottish Sir William Arbuthnot Lanes’s practice of removing colons of patients (that didn’t help) made this theory unpopular by the 1930s. He saw the problem of waste in the human body as a result of modern-day lifestyles, and was convinced that people living in pre-industrial societies were healthier. Charles Bouchard’s theory of intoxification was widely read: he said man is inhabited in his digestive tract by lower organisms. The idea of introducing certain foods to combat putrification e.g. lactic acid from fermented milk, was proposed by other medical professionals. Dr Mathias surmised that France and Scotland appear to have had a relationship on the development of these ideas.



The afternoon session adopted a more informal approach by inviting participants to present 5-minute talks followed by discussion. The aim of the afternoon was to gain a deeper understanding of the individual research interests of workshop participants and how they connected to the aims and objectives of SNNEC.

Amelie Bonney (DPhil student in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology) discussed the French and Scottish toxicology, as well as French and Scottish approaches to occupational disease. Scottish physicians developed an early interest in occupational disease at a time when the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh offered the first course in medical jurisprudence and in toxicology in Britain, thus encouraging the study of the effects of poisons on the human body. Among those medical practitioners and forensic experts who discussed the diseases of workers were Andrew Duncan (1773-1832), Robert Christison, Edward Headlam Greenhow (1814-1888), Calvert Holland and John Forbes (1787-1861). The case of epidemiologist and physician Edward Headlam Greenhow highlights the influence of different schools of thought in promoting the study of the diseases of workers. Before developing an interest in the topic, Greenhow studied medicine at Edinburgh and Montpellier. His training and his ties with the continent enabled him to become acquainted with French neo-Hippocratic writings on the diseases of workers, such as Edmond Blandet’s, before developing his own studies of the diseases of workers.

Dr Barbara Burns (Reader in German, University of Glasgow) presented a talk entitled ‘Waging War on War: Bertha von Suttner, Andrew Carnegie and Alfred Nobel’. Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914), the Austrian writer of the bestselling anti-war novel Lay Down Your Arms (1889) and first female recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1905), was committed to the ideal of a united Europe. Suttner challenged the narrow nationalisms of nineteenth-century Europe, and her vision for international arbitration as a means of preventing war helped pave the way for the establishment of the League of Nations. Two of her most significant supporters were the Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (who had several factories and a house in Scotland), and Burns’ talk sketched the links between them.

Mungo Campbell (Curator, Hunterian Museum) discussed how William Hunter’s pedagogy, and the institution he envisaged made the transition from London to Scotland, and from private to public, during the nineteenth century. He also touched on the extent to which Hunter’s own extensive European networks continued to engage with his professional and material legacy in the years after his death. Twentieth and twenty-first century narratives about Hunter’s collections have tended to be framed either around Hunter (very specific elements of the collections – for example, anatomy, entomology or the library) or the more or less ‘public’ aspects of access and display, either in London or in Glasgow. Almost no work has been undertaken to understand the daily lives of his collections and their use, and influence, in teaching and research across almost 150 years. Recent discoveries around the material relating to Hunter’s Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus project have suggested that these afterlives may offer fertile territory for enquiry.

Dr Helen Cowie (Senior Lecturer, University of York) is interested in the ways in which zoos can highlight global networks and local/national identities, and she gave a talk focused on the Scottish contribution to the collection, exhibition and study of live animals in the 19th century. In this period, zoological gardens were founded in cities across Britain and Europe, including Edinburgh. Cowie discussed why it was considered important to have a zoo in the city, and how Scots living overseas contributed to Edinburgh’s zoological collection by donating coveted species.

Douglas Mitchell (PhD student, University of Glasgow) is working on the historical geographies of lime burning in Scotland, and the project is run in collaboration with Historic Environments Scotland. Mitchell discussed the ways in which natural philosophers, chemists, and agriculturalists of Enlightenment Scotland, such as William Cullen and Lord Kames, contributed useful knowledge that influenced the development of the lime industry. By the eighteenth century, farmers had been applying lime to the land in parts of Scotland for hundreds of years without any understanding of the precise nature of lime and how it operated on the soil. Subsequent attempts to address these questions are inextricably linked to nascent forms of agricultural science that developed throughout the nineteenth century.

Finally, Thomas Seton (PhD Student, University of Glasgow) discussed how Lord Kelvin is known for various inventions and theories. He travelled widely in Europe and was part of movements to establish an international community of scientists. He was influenced by the Frenchman Ferrier and his heat theories and was more influenced by European as opposed to British instrument makers and theorists.


Concluding remarks

Recurring themes that emerged from the discussions throughout the day included:

– the connections between the different talks and the value of interdisciplinary working

– the connections between the local and global, particularly in light of the present political context

– the multi-directional connectedness, international collaborations and knowledge sharing, combined with a potential of competition and rivalry among institutions, movements and ideas

– how, at a time of crisis for European languages subjects in UK universities, a strong Modern Languages basis can facilitate knowledge production, reproduction and cultural translation and transmission by enabling researchers to compare sources in different languages to understand further international exchanges of knowledge

– how connections can be made to Scotland by highlighting similar phenomenon rather than specific connections such as a person travelling to Scotland

– a consideration of the practical and multi-directional emotional aspects to these studies and why we choose to plug into certain networks and make certain choices.

– the many material culture aspects to the talks and the importance of thinking beyond the archives

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