Stories of Medicine - A Day of Talks Exploring Medical History

Talk Heritage
  • Venue

    Library and Old Operating Theatre Museum

  • Time

    10:00 AM

  • Price


  • Book Tickets

Southwark Cathedral presents a day of talks about medicine including a visit and talk at the Old Operating Theatre Museum

Sarah Wise - Anatomists and Bodysnatching

10.00am - 11.00am

In this illustrated talk, Sarah Wise takes us on a tour of some of London's lesser-known burial grounds, and surveys some of the highly unsentimental folk who raided the city's graveyards. Some of them even turned to murder.

Included in the talk is the role of Southwark in the story of anatomists and bodysnatching.

Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.

Sarah Wise is the author of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction.

She teaches in the English Department of City University, London, and lectures in 19th-century social history at the University of California's London Study Center.

Her most recent book, Inconvenient People, was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.

Caroline Rance - Dissection and Dissipation: life as a medical student in Victorian London

11.15am - 12.15pm

As the medical profession became increasingly regulated and keen to define itself against unqualified quacks, medical schools tried to leave behind the old stereotype of the dissolute, drunken student.

Using the diaries and memoirs of Victorian doctors, author Caroline Rance explores the highs and lows of student life at the London hospitals during this era of transformation.

Susan Hawkins - Maid to Matron: the transformation of Mrs Coster. A story of new nursing in 19th century London

1:30pm - 2.45pm

If asked about nursing in the 19th century, most people begin and end at Florence Nightingale, and there is no disputing the influence she had on the transformation which took place in nursing in that century and beyond. But this talk will refer to her only fleetingly! There are other, perhaps more interesting and certainly less well known, stories to tell about the birth of modern nursing.

This talk will explore, through the stories of ordinary women who nursed at St George’s Hospital, how nursing was transformed from a (somewhat disreputable) branch of domestic service to a fully-fledged profession, with proper training, examinations and a career structure. We will meet Mrs Hines who was sacked for being unable to control her rowdy nursing department, Zepharina Veitch, who took on the hospital’s managers (and lost), and Harriet Coster, the daughter of a gardener at Hanwell Asylum, who rose to the position of matron at one of London’s most prestigious teaching hospitals.

By the end of the century nursing offered respectable young women who wanted freedom from the stupefying, patriarchal Victorian culture to which they were condemned, a chance to create an independent life for themselves.

Visit to the Old Operating Theatre* with a Talk : Victorian Surgery Brought to Life

3.15pm - 4.45pm

Once a part of the old St Thomas' Hospital, the Old Operating Theatre Museum features Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre, where hundreds of surgeons would have once gathered and learnt their trade by watching the various surgical procedures that took place.

Before the advent of anaesthesia and antiseptic , an operation had to be swift and the chance of later infection was high.

Experience the atmosphere of this uniquely evocative space, by joining our wonderful speaker as they take you back in time and explain how surgery was performed in the early nineteenth century.

*Access: Disabled access to the Museum is limited. It is in the attic space of a 300 year old church and entrance is via a 52-step narrow spiral staircase. Please, take a note that the Museum does not have visitor toilet facilities.