Professionalizing Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Brazil

Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon D (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Roderick J. Barman , University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
It is a truism that, during the nineteenth century, qualified practitioners of “Western” or “scientific medicine” were more likely to kill than to cure.  The risk was all the greater in societies where Western medicine was little more than a derivative, a simple replication of the science of medicine as practiced in Europe.  Nonetheless, orthodox medicine established itself during the eighteen hundreds as a prestigious and flourishing profession throughout the Atlantic World.           

Nineteenth Century Brazil, which as a colony had lacked all institutions of higher education and in which, due to the slave trade with Africa, there existed an array of alternative medical practices, was exemplary of the establishment of orthodox medicine as a bulwark of the social and cultural order.  The paper discuss the reasons for this development, focusing on the trajectory of the two Faculties of Medicine and the Imperial Academy of Medicine, on the perception that professionalized medicine affirmed Brazil’s claims to “civilized” status, and on medicine as the best available avenue for upward mobility among the socially disadvantaged, particularly those wholly or in part of African ancestry.

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