New Remedies in Early Modern Ottoman Medicine: Some from the New World, Some from Tombs

A Seminar with Dr. Akif Yerlioğlu

Akif Yerlioglu

This talk will offer a critical overview of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pharmacological world of the Ottoman “new medicine” (ṭıbb-ı cedīd). From the 1660s onwards, Ottoman physicians began to translate early-modern European medical sources and adapt medical ideas and theories based on chemical methods that stood out from the works of the ancients (e.g., Galen, Avicenna). This emerging corpus created fertile ground for lively discussions in Ottoman medical scholarship, which went hand in hand with the application of new curative substances, imported from various parts of the world, including, but not exclusive to the Americas. I approach these moments of critical translation and adaptation from lived aspects of medical practice, which are overlooked in current scholarship in the history of medicine that restricts the material to the intertextual domain of books and ideas. Using a range of archival sources (e.g., recipe books, pharmacological encyclopedias, palace inventories, travelogues), I argue that for physicians and other medical professionals, this new medical discourse was not considered mere exotica. Rather, novel cures and substances alongside their implementation (including, therefore, the newly-adapted apparatuses) were quickly incorporated into everyday medical practices, which would lay the groundwork for incorporation of chemical methodologies into both scholarly and popular medicine.

Akif Ercihan Yerlioğlu graduated from the Department of History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University in 2020. He focuses on early modern Ottoman medical discourse, especially the novel ideas and practices, by analyzing medical texts and the interactions between the state and physicians in the medical marketplace. Previously supported by prestigious institutions (e.g., Mahindra Humanities Center, Gerda Henkel Stiftung, ANAMED), Yerlioğlu’s work situates the Ottoman lands into the global circulation of ideas, materials, and experts, and presents a more connected picture of the early modern world.


This event will take place on Zoom. Attendance required pre-registration. Please register here.


Published Oct. 20, 2020 12:39 PM - Last modified Oct. 23, 2020 4:12 PM