Science and Technology Studies


STS offers degrees at each university level: undergraduate, masters, and PhD


STS Research Seminar - Dr Elaine Leong (UCL History / Max Planck Institute) - Weds 6th March 2019

06 March 2019, 4:00 pm–7:00 pm

Dr Elaine Leong

The STS Research Seminar series allows the department to exhibit some of the most interesting recent research in our field. We invite speakers both from UCL and the wider community to present their research to a varied and curious audience.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Malcolm Chalmers – Department of Science and Technology Studies
0207 679 1328


Room 1.2
Malet Place Engineering Building
Malet Place
United Kingdom

On Wednesday 6th March, Dr Elaine Leong of UCL History and the Max Planck Institute will visit the departmentto give her talk on 'Learning medicine by the book in early modern England'. The talk will begin at 4.30pm in Malet Place Engineering Building room 1.2, with refreshments from 4pm.


Vernacular medical print flourished in early modern Europe. By the mid- to late seventeenth century, English readers accessed a wide range of medical books, priced to suit almost all budgets. Some titles stacked on London booksellers’ shelves were instructional and offered a variety of health-related know-how from first aid to simple surgeries to medicine production. Others, such as pharmacopoeia or dictionaries, were geared towards standardising knowledge and practice. Focusing on book production, past studies have sketched out the general contours of English medical print and have argued that many early modern men and women gained substantial knowledge about health and the body through books. This paper extends these studies by asking what it means to learn medicine from books. I begin by contextualizing the rich corpus of vernacular medical manuals and handbooks within a broader history of instructional literature, examining “medicine by the book” alongside cognate practices in other knowledge fields. Then, taking tools developed by historians of the book, I examine paratextual materials to unpack how these books were designed to be used and read. Finally, I analyse marginal annotations and marks to recover how actual readers engaged with and appropriated the knowledge from different kinds of medical books. In doing so, I aim to further elucidate and understand the informal transfer of health-related knowledge and skills in the early modern period.

About the Speaker

Dr Elaine Leong

MPG Minerva Research Group Leader at Max Planck Institute

Dr Leong gained her doctorate in Modern History from the University of Oxford in 2006. Before joining the MPIWG, she was a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick. In 2006 and 2007, she held short-term fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Huntington Library. Her article "Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household," (82, 2008) was awarded the 2009 J. Worth Estes Prize by the American Association for the History of Medicine and the 2010 Jerry Stannard Award.

More about Dr Elaine Leong