David Ferrier’s Experimental Localization of Cerebral Functions and the Anti-Vivisection Debate

In: Nuncius
Carmela Morabito Department of Literary, Philosophical and History of Arts Studies, University of Rome Tor Vergata

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While representing one of the most important developments in the knowledge of the brain, both for its theoretical advances and its medical consequences, the work of David Ferrier met with strong criticism from conservative circles in Victorian society. At the end of 19th century certain British neurologists and neurosurgeons – including Ferrier – faced vehement public attacks by those aristocrats who, under the banner of antivivisectionism and “natural theology”, expressed their fears of the reorganization of medicine into a scientific discipline. The debate that developed in Victorian society after these events led not only to the diffusion of Ferrier’s ideas and public recognition of the advanced neurosurgical practices that stemmed from his work, but also contributed to the affirmation of the medical community in the scientific world of the time.

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