Drugs on Trial

Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutic Innovation in the Eighteenth-Century


Experimental pharmacology is often portrayed as a creation of the nineteenth century, the age of the sciences in medicine. This book demonstrates that the basic methodology of the field, including chemical analysis, in vitro testing, animal experimentation and human research, was already developed in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Putting remedies on trial was stimulated by the challenge to Galenism through new chemical, mechanical and vitalist concepts of disease, by the import of exotic drugs and the flourishing trade with secret medicines. The book describes the main issues of eighteenth-century pharmacology and therapeutics and provides detailed case studies of three key areas: lithontriptics (remedies against urinary stones), opium, and Peruvian bark (quinine). It shows how pharmacological knowledge and therapeutic change were promoted in medical centres of the time, such as Edinburgh, London, Paris, Halle and Göttingen. Yet it also reveals how by publication of medical case histories many otherwise little-known practitioners contributed to this scientific enterprise as well.

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Andreas-Holger Maehle is Reader in History of Medicine at the University of Durham, England. He was trained as a doctor in Bonn and as a medical historian in Göttingen and London. He has published books on the toxicology of Johann Jakob Wepfer (1620-95) and on the origins of the vivisection debate in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His current research deals with the history of medical professional ethics in Germany and Britain.
1. General Introduction: Features of Eighteenth-Century Pharmacology
2. Dissolving the Stone: The Search for Lithontriptics
3. Opium: Explorations of an Ambiguous Drug
4. Peruvian Bark: From Specific Febrifuge to Universal Remedy
5. General Conclusions: Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutic Innovation
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