2 Feb 2009 5:00pm - 6:30pm CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane


Dr Lauren Kassell  (HPS, Cambridge)


My earliest work as a historian of medicine focused on a set of  astrological casebooks kept by Simon Forman in the years around 1600.  Through a reading of the technical details of these records, I argued  that astrology was integral to the exchange between the practitioner  and his clients. Through the stars, he established his authority to  judge the cause of a disease. This authority, he argued, was  necessary for cases concerning women's health firstly because women's  health was dependent on their reproductive capacity, and second  because women were notoriously duplicitous about their sexual  activity. Now I am returning to Forman's casebooks in order to  situate them within broader trends in recording medical cases in  early modern England, at the same time as launching a project to make  Forman's and related astrological records accessible in an on-line  edition, database and image archive. In this talk I will explore how  other scholars have used medical records to recover past healing  practices, and I will sketch my plans for using early modern medical  and astrological cases to explore questions about sex, gender and the  dynamics of healing.


Lauren Kassell is a senior lecturer at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and a fellow of Pembroke College. She holds a BA in Sociology and Social Anthropology from Haverford College; an MSc in Economic and Social History, University of Oxford; and a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford. From 1998-2000 she was the first R.A. Butler Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She joined the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in 2000, and spent 2004-5 as a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Suggested readings

For my earlier work on Forman's casebooks, see Lauren Kassell, 'How  to Read Simon Forman's Casebooks: Medicine, Astrology and Gender in  Elizabethan London', Social History of Medicine, 12 (1999), 3-18.  This material is incorporated more broadly into Forman's activities  in Lauren Kassell, Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London: Simon  Forman, Astrologer, Alchemist, and Physician (Oxford, 2005). 

For a classic work on medicine and gender which is also a model of  how to use medical records, see Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the  Skin: A Doctor's Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany, trans.  Thomas Dunlap (Harvard, 1991).

All welcome. No registration required.

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum


Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk