The Dr. Martin A. Entin Lecture in the History of Medicine

The Entin Lecture has been postponed until further notice


Michael Stolberg

Michael Stolberg is professor and director of the Institute for the History of Medicine in Würzburg, Germany. He is author of “Experiencing illness and the sick body in early modern Europe” (Palgrave Macmillan 2011), “Uroscopy in early modern Europe, 1500-1800” (Ashgate 2015) and “History of palliative care, 1500-1970. Concepts, practices and ethical challenges” (Springer 2017). His current work focuses on anatomy, medical training, and ordinary medical practice in the Renaissance.

Doctors, patients, and ordinary medical practice in the sixteenth century.​​​​​​


What we know about ordinary learned medical practice and the ways in which doctors and patients (and their families) interacted in the sixteenth century, is so far largely based on normative, theoretical sources such as learned textbooks and treatises and deontological works on the duties of physicians. They outline what physicians should do, however, not necessarily what they actually did. In my lecture, I will approach the everyday reality of ordinary medical practice drawing primarily on manuscript sources such as practice journals and physicians’ personal notebooks. As I hope to show, they allow us to paint a much more nuanced picture – and one that, in important respects, differs profoundly from what we would expect from reading published writings. The more than 4.000 pages of personal notes, in particular, that a little known German-Bohemian physician by the name of Georg Handsch assembled over a period of more than three decades, offer a rich and lively impression of the (quite limited) range of diseases doctors diagnosed, of the concepts, terms and images they used to explain them to their patients (almost never as the result as a humoral imbalance, as it turns out), and of the complicated mix of trust and conflict that characterized the doctor-patient-relationship at the time.






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