A Subtle and Mysterious Machine

The Medical World of Walter Charleston (1619–1707)

  • S. Gaukroger
  • Editors
  • Emily Booth

Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 18)

About this book

Introduction

Walter Charleton (1619-1707) has been widely depicted as a natural philosopher whose intellectual career mirrored the intellectual ferment of the ‘scientific revolution’. Instead of viewing him as a barometer of intellectual change, I examine the previously unexplored question of his identity as a physician. Examining three of his vernacular medical texts, this volume considers Charleton’s thoughts on anatomy, physiology and the methods by which he sought to understand the invisible processes of the body.

Although involved in many empirical investigations within the Royal Society, he did not give epistemic primacy to experimental findings, nor did he deliberately identify himself with the empirical methods associated with the ‘new science’. Instead Charleton presented himself as a scholarly eclectic, following a classical model of the self. Physicians needed to endorse both ancient and modern authorities, in order to attract and retain patients. I argue that Charleton’s circumstances as a practising physician resulted in the construction of an identity at variance with that widely associated with natural philosophers. The insights he can offer us into the world of seventeenth century physicians are highly significant and utterly fascinating.

Keywords

anatomy evolution natural philosophy philosophy physiology

Authors and affiliations

  • S. Gaukroger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneySydney

Bibliographic information

  • DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3378-8
  • Copyright Information Springer 2005
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
  • Print ISBN 978-1-4020-3377-3
  • Online ISBN 978-1-4020-3378-0
  • Series Print ISSN 0929-6425
  • About this book