Luminaries in medicine: Richard Mead, James Gibbs, and solar and lunar effects on the human body in early modern England

Roos, Anna Marie (2000) Luminaries in medicine: Richard Mead, James Gibbs, and solar and lunar effects on the human body in early modern England. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 74 (3). pp. 433-457. ISSN 0007- 5140

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In early modern England, the medical effects of the sun and the moon had been traditionally explained by a vast symbolic system of "analogies, correspondences, and relations among apparently discrete elements in man and the universe," which had its conceptual origins in the works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Galen. The ultimate causes of planetary emanations had been considered "occult," an Aristotelian and early modern term utilized when distinguishing "qualities which were evident to the senses from those which were hidden." After the Restoration, many physicians attempted to rid the natural world of occult causes and to explain invisible forces like solar and lunar emanations via mechanical, chemical, and mathematical systems.
To explain the medical effects of the luminaries, the English physicians Richard Mead (1673-1754) and James Gibbs (d. 1724) utilized iatromechanism, which regarded the body as a Cartesian machine, conforming in its functions to mechanical laws. Gibbs's and Mead's use of chemical and mechanical explanations illustrates the changed intellectual climate after the Restoration, which placed rationalistic, empirical, and "scientific" values above traditional academic medicine. However, the basis of Mead's and Gibb's theories were traditionally Galenic and based upon astrological medicine.

Keywords:sun, moon, medical astrology, iatromechanism, Richard Mead, James Gibbs, Newtonian Physicians
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V380 History of Science
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:8070
Deposited On:18 Mar 2013 12:31

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