The medicine of warm climates

Mark Harrison

in Medicine in an age of Commerce and Empire

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577736
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595196 | DOI:
The medicine of warm climates

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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In the mid‐eighteenth century, a distinct body of medical knowledge began to form relating to the diseases of warm climates. Writers on the East and West Indies began to refer to each other's work and to that of practitioners in other parts of the ‘Torrid Zone’. This chapter shows how the tropics and subtropics came to be regarded as a distinct disease zone, with different epidemiological features than temperate climates. Morbid anatomical investigations in military and naval hospitals also pointed to a distinct tropical pathology: the putrefaction of bile. However, on their return to Britain, many former colonial practitioners found that their observations were relevant to certain kinds of disease at home, particularly fevers and other ‘crowd diseases’. Some found work in fever hospitals, while others disseminated their work through connections with universities such as Edinburgh and groups of Dissenting natural philosophers and medical practitioners, such as the Lunar Society.

Keywords: biliary theory; climate; Dissent; Edinburgh University; fever hospitals; Lunar Society; medicine of warm climates; morbid anatomy; putrefaction; tropics

Chapter.  11616 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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