Thursday, November 24, 2011

Print and its Effects on Medical Advances

(So according to some suggestions by our professor I'm adding this note.  This post is part of my ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY assignment.  The bibliography is below the page break and is about THE EFFECTS OF PRINT ON MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE.)

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Venturing into the strange world physical research in a library with actual books, moving bookshelves, and code-like numbers on the sides of these books can be a pretty scary task for today's college student.  I probably do about one or two research assignments in the library each semester, but I swear that each time a have I have to again overcome my fear of doing research and actual physical movement at once.  I also have to relearn how to look stuff up there every time I try to use the numbering system, which reminds me of the library card song from Arthur - An integral part of my childhood.  Please enjoy:

"Who's Dewey?": one of those questions we will never know the answer to. . . or maybe we could look him up on wikipedia.  Anyway, after getting reacquainted with the cataloguing system again, (which is actually not the Dewey Decimal System in the HBLL) I started to search for books that teach about how the printing press affected medicine.  So here it is:

An Annotated Bibliography on the Effects of Print on Medical Knowledge

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1979.  This is a giant two volume book on everything you could ever want to know about the printing press and its effect on society.  It seems that Eisenstein is the leading expert in the area.  This book has a whole big chapter called Technical Literature Goes to Press that talks all about the effect of printing on medicine.  [I found this book cited in a footnote of some of books in the medical history section of the library, only to realize later that Dr. Burton had also cited this book in his example bibliography.]

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (2E).  Cambridge University Press, 2005.  This book is similar to Eisenstein's other book, although a little bit shorter.  There is a great part about how printing helped turn the world away from magic and toward methodical science.  It also talks about how the press brought medical ideas from other countries and how priests and abbots shifted towards editing and how this standardized and furthered medicine.  [I found this book by browsing the section of the library with books on printing.  I recognized the author and found it to be a pretty good source.]

Huff, Toby E.  The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West (2E).  Cambridge University Press, 2003.  [I found this book because it was close by to The Great Instauration.]  The book discusses the modernization of science in distinct parts of the world and how ancient science transformed during the early renaissance because of changes in learning institutions at the time.

Magner, Lois N.  A History of Medicine (2E).  Taylor & Francis Group, 2005. [I also found this book in the section of the library on medical histories.]  The book is a good overview of medical history and there is a chapter called "The Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution" and the subheading "Inventions That Changed the World" that was especially relevant.  It talked about how the printing press was a positive and negative change for medicine at the time.  Positive because it disseminated ideas, but negative because bad information could now kill thousands instead of just a few patients.  The book also focuses on how printing changed our view of anatomy.

Richardson, Robert.  History of Medicine: With Commentaries.  Quiller Press, 2005.  A good general overview of medical history.  Focuses also on the way printing changed the study of anatomy and important anatomy books.  [Once again in the same section of medical histories.]

Sarton, George. Appreciation of Ancient and Medieval Science During the Renaissance. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1955.  This is a wonderful history of medical science during the renaissance and its shift to more organized and scientific research as a result of the printing press and other inventions and discoveries.  [I found the book in a footnote in one of Eisenstein's books, which let me back to the medical history books for a second time.  The first time I hadn't found any books I thought were pertinent but upon further investigation I found most of the books on this list.  It's interesting how I had looked over them before.]

Webster, Charles.  The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine and Reform.  Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. 1975.  [I think I found this book on the internet catalog and then found it in the library.  I can't quite remember if it was this book or one of the others in the medical history section.]  The book discusses the revolution in learning and learning institutions caused by print, and how this revolution in turn affected medicine and science.

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I had an interesting time doing this research.  Somehow, as I was wandering through the library I realized that browsing actual books is kind of like surfing the internet (or maybe I should say it the other way around).  Once you have some direction, maybe you find the right site (internet or physical location) you can just click around.  If you find something that looks interesting you pull it off the shelf and click on it.  Similar books are grouped together just as websites often have links to similar sites.  Research in a library actually isn't too bad, and it is usually much easier to find reliable resources in a book than on my laptop.

To finish this off I am going to post another video. I usually explain stuff too much so now I'll let the video speak for itself. 

  I know it's a fake but it still makes me laugh.


  1. This is kind of cool. I think it is kind of sad though how we have to compare everything to surfing on the internet. Maybe I was low-tech growing up or something, but I really love exploring the bookshelves, and I don't see the comparison really. Most of my research experience has been in libraries, and the internet has only been a small tool to finding what I want on the shelves.

    I like your topic though. I never thought about how medicine might be affected by printing. It is interesting, how info that would only have killed a few patients could now kill thousands more, and info to save can save thousands more. It is also interesting to me that the view of anatomy would have changed, since to me that would be more with pictures than with words. hmmm....

  2. You've got a point Morgan, and actually I used to do a lot more with books than I do now. Recently I have shifted a lot more to ciber technology. To answer your question about anatomy, you are right that it was mostly conveyed through pictures and not words, but printing isn't only for words. If i am not wrong, the dissemination of anatomy information was sped up because they were able to make prints of anatomy drawings using the press. Like the moveable type but a special piece for that picture; obviously harder to make the picture but they were able to mass produce them.

  3. I really like that music video, I think it is funny. Our library actually doesn't use the dewy system though, disappointing I know. One day in a fit of boredom I was reading about different library cataloging systems. It was actually really cool: you choose the system that helps you find what you want most efficiently. Before that I didn't really know that there were so many different ways of organizing books.
    Mike you're right about printing, to make a figure in a book you had to carve a block that then would be fitted in the page. It was more expensive and time consuming than setting type, but was still more efficient than hand drawn figures and added the benefit of consistency and review. Everyone had the same picture of your eyeball so there is less confusion about what an eyeball is.

  4. I think it's awesome that medicine and science as a whole became much more unified and in a way somewhat universal. As things were written and distributed at a quicker pace, more scientific and medicinal advances have been made within various cultures that can be shared worldwide.