Dr. Volker Hess Chair for the History of Medicine, Institute for the History and Ethics of Medicine, Charité Berlin
Department of Social Studies of Medicine Seminar Series
Wednesday 11 November 2015
3647 Peel Street Don Bates Seminar Room 101, 4:30 p.m.
Anyone who goes systematically through the patient records of the Berlin Psychiatric Clinic for the years before and after the First World War cannot fail to notice a bluish-violet paper form that was used for clinical study. Reconstructing the use and function of the preprinted form provides major insights into the activities of clinical medicine in that place and time and is the subject of my talk.
I will argue that preprinted forms, patient files and hospital archives, registries and clerk-rooms worked together like the integrated parts of a massive device that organized, performed and produced medical knowledge. I will describe and characterize this ensemble of simple materials like pen and paper and the related techniques, as a paper machine: In many aspects, the paper made apparatus was comparable to a mechanical device. Composed by ordinary techniques, the paper machine prepared, homogenized and processed clinical observations into clinical data and scientific facts. In this way, we can learn more about clinical research and the science of medicine in the early-20th century.