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In the period when early European empires were first being established across the globe, China did not project its power overseas; yet its global influence was strong, and admirers of its ancient medical wisdom could be found in many places. Chinese medical texts had long been influential in East Asia, but by the late 17th-century some were being translated for European audiences, too, becoming an important part of the growing interest in chinoiserie. There was even a momentary European fashion for the practices of acupuncture and moxibustion to relieve the pains of gout. By the 18th century, descriptions of how Chinese pulse-taking could reveal underlying sympathies among organs of the body were written into one of the most famous works of the Enlightenment: the Encyclopédie. How and why were its long-distance travels generated, and by whom? In a period usually described as one of empire-building, other kinds of influence can be detected, too.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Harold J. Cook is the John F. Nickoll Professor of History at Brown University, and previous Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London. His chief research interests are in the emergence of the new medicines and sciences of early modern Europe; the co-production of science and commerce; global knowledge exchanges; and processes of translation. Recipient of the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society and the Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine, he is author of numerous articles and books, including The Young Descartes: Nobility, Rumor, and War (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), and editor of several others, most recently Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age (Leiden: Brill, 2020).