Glaze and team make important discoveries in medical historyEliza Glaze, associate professor of history, was part of an international team of scholars who may have reinvented the current understanding of medical manuscripts. In a gathering funded by the National Humanities Center and titled “Excavating Medicine in a Digital Age: Paleography and the Medical Book in the 12th-Century Renaissance,” scholars gathered from as far away as Australia, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Canada to examine the evidence for medical thought and writing in the late 11th- and 12th-century Europe.
This particular period was considered "because it was a pivotal moment in the history of Western medicine: the point when learned medical practitioners in Europe first began systematically to retrieve earlier Greek writings on medicine and to adopt the sophisticated medical theories and practices from the Islamic world," says Glaze. "This period laid the foundations for what would become scientific medicine in the West."
One key was to combine the skills of historians (who know what the texts are) with those of paleographers, specialized scholars who study the history of books and the production of manuscript books. The other was to use the new digital technologies of image production and transfer to bring together a large enough body of data to allow systematic comparison of a wide population of material manuscript evidence.
“The high-quality digital images the group assembled in advance, studied individually, and then assessed collectively here at the Center are a tremendous resource that truly demands a more public airing. I look forward to seeing the publications to follow,” said Glaze.
The group is now exploring additional funding options from a range of international agencies to assess the feasibility of creating a sustainable Internet database of images, transcriptions, translations and research findings of more than 400 manuscripts preserving these and other medical important texts.