Christelle Rabier

The View from Above? Surgical Technologies’ Assessments in Eighteenth-century Paris

ARC 43 n50In the Memoirs de l’Académie royale de chirurgie, first published in 1743, several instruments, such as a “tire-tête en croix”, are approvingly presented, with detailed description, plate and name of the cutler Meneau who originally made it.  The selected few overcast the wide array of medical technologies sent from 1732 till 1791 to the scholarly body for testing, assessment and approval, although the archives do no longer hold the original instruments. This unique documentation provides a unique insight into French and European trades who saw academic approval as one strategy among others for successful marketing. The project here was clearly different from that of the Commission royale des remèdes, followed by the Société royale de medicine, whose role was to assess drugs and ointments for individual licensing; on the contrary, academic approval was understood as a way to disperse invention through recognition and, possibly, print for copying.  Through the narrow lens of academician refereeing, the folders detailed the complex processes through which mechanical instruments were designed, adapted, and given a surgical life – through visual and word description  – , whose ”invention” was a result of interacting adjustments in use and technological understanding between sufferers, mechanical trades, practitioners of surgery and referees before made public. 


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