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By Emily Booth

Walter Charleton (1619-1707) has been generally depicted as a traditional thinker whose highbrow profession reflected the highbrow ferment of the ‘scientific revolution’. rather than viewing him as a barometer of highbrow swap, I learn the formerly unexplored query of his identification as a doctor. reading 3 of his vernacular clinical texts, this quantity considers Charleton’s recommendations on anatomy, body structure and the tools through which he sought to appreciate the invisible techniques of the physique. even supposing excited by many empirical investigations in the Royal Society, he didn't supply epistemic primacy to experimental findings, nor did he intentionally determine himself with the empirical tools linked to the ‘new science’. as a substitute Charleton offered himself as a scholarly eclectic, following a classical version of the self. Physicians had to suggest either old and glossy gurus, which will allure and hold sufferers. I argue that Charleton’s conditions as a working towards health care provider ended in the development of an id at variance with that commonly linked to usual philosophers. The insights he can supply us into the realm of 17th century physicians are hugely major and totally interesting

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Extra info for A Subtle and Mysterious Machine: The Medical World of Walter Charleton (1619-1707)

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Where referred to by these historians, Charleton is depicted as adhering to a natural philosophical model whose attributes included active experimentalism, collaborative investigation, the rejection INTRODUCTION 31 of ancient authority and promotion of innovation. I argue that in order to understand Charleton we must step outside such a characterisation, and look more closely at how he himself made sense of his activities. In so doing we open our minds to a broader set of possible interpretations of natural philosophy and medicine than those permitted within Shapin’s framework.

Osler, ‘Descartes and Charleton’, pp. 446-7. Osler, ‘Descartes and Charleton’, p. 456. This approach to the history of ‘mechanist’ thought is opposed by Steven Shapin et al. 36 CHAPTER II The binaries of Manning, Westfall and Osler have been revised within the history of ideas by studies that question the notion of scientific revolution as the displacement of one exclusive ‘world view’ by another. In these revisions Charleton is cast in a different light. Nina Gelbart focuses on Charleton’s alleged transition from hermeticism and Helmontianism to atomism and mechanistic philosophy,22 but emphasises the permeability of the boundaries between these frameworks.

The physician’s adherence to, and then rejection of hermeticism, according to Webster, simply followed prevailing opinion. Helmont’s theories declined in popularity after the 1640s. 31 Again Charleton is seen to epitomise late seventeenth-century change, though this time political and theological motivation are integrated within the account of his works. Pyarali Rattansi replicates this picture of Charleton’s shift, from natural magic to the new mechanical philosophy, in response to external impetus.

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