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Medicine and Monstrous Generation in the Seventeenth Century: The Case of Thomas Bartholin
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Medicine and Monstrous Generation in the Seventeenth Century: The Case of Thomas Bartholin (Hardback)

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Through a case study of the work of the renowned anatomist and keen collector Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680), this book contributes to the cultural history of early modern natural philosophy, medicine and the body by focusing on the widespread fascination with monstrous generation and the marvellous in seventeenth-century medicine. Bartholin was a professor at the University of Copenhagen and a committed Lutheran. His extensive works show that he was mainly preoccupied with the extraordinary, monstrous and singular. In his view, it was above all in generation that nature tended to go astray and generation was therefore a perfect object of investigation for the physician who wanted to explore the wonders of nature. Bartholin reported among many other things on women who gave birth to hens' eggs, rat-like creatures and strange monstrous births. Bartholin's works provide a valuable vantage point from which to revisit seventeenth-century learned concepts and practices related to generation, showing the similarities and differences between Bartholin's natural inquiry - informed by his Lutheran-Melanchtonian background - and his peers in early modern Europe. The book also provides a fresh and broader perspective on the history of medicine, monsters and generation by arguing that in order to understand early modern notions of generation, we must widen and historicise the concept. The book thus unites various historical approaches, including the history of medicine, the history of science and the history and anthropology of the body. It moreover deepens our knowledge of the relationship between medicine and religion and elucidates the early modern redrawing of boundaries between natural, preternatural and supernatural.

Signe Nipper Nielsen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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