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Experimental pharmacology and therapeutic innovation in the eighteenth century

Maehle, Andreas-Holger; (1996) Experimental pharmacology and therapeutic innovation in the eighteenth century. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D.), University College London (United Kingdom). Green open access

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In the historiography of pharmacology and therapeutics, the 18th century is regarded as a period of transition from traditional, Galenistic materia medica to the beginnings of modern, experimental drug research. Ackerknecht (1973) characterized the pharmacotherapy of this period as a "chaotic mixture of chemiatric and Galenistic practices", yet acknowledged an "increasing tendency toward empiricism, partly even true experimentalism". This thesis explores this transitional phase for the first time in depth, examining the relations between pharmacological experimentation, theory-building, and therapeutic practice. Furthermore, ethical aspects are highlighted. The general introduction discusses the secondary literature and presents the results of a systematic study of pharmacological articles in relevant 18th-century periodicals. The identified main areas of contemporary interest, the spectrum of methods applied, and the composition of the authorship are described and interpreted. It is shown that lithontriptics ("dissolvents" for urinary stones), opium, and Peruvian bark were of major concern to 18th-century pharmacology. These substances are the subjects of three "case studies", which form the body of the thesis. Issues discussed here include, in lithontriptics, the role of proprietary remedies and links with analytical chemistry; in opium, the different interpretations of its mode of action, toxicity, and addictive properties; and in Peruvian bark, the widening of its therapeutic indications, changes in its pharmacological understanding, and problems of its quality assessment. The thesis provides evidence of a previously unknown wealth of 18th-century pharmacological works, which were characterized by an increasingly sophisticated methodology and critical discussions of their consequences for the theory and therapeutic uses of drugs. It argues in conclusion for a positive revision of current historical judgements about 18th-century pharmacology and therapeutics.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D.
Title: Experimental pharmacology and therapeutic innovation in the eighteenth century
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: (UMI)AAI10017185; Social sciences; Health and environmental sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10102776
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