A few weeks ago, Verity Burke from the blog Science book a day posted a list of 10 Great Books on the History of Medicine. Here is the list:
- Morbid Curiosities: Medical Museums in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Samuel J.M.M. Alberti (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- The Morbid Anatomy Anthology, ed. Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey (Morbid Anatomy Press, 2014)
- The Sick Rose: Or, Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration. Richard Barnett (Thames and Hudson, 2014)
- Human Anatomy: Depicting the Body from the Renaissance to Today, eds. Benjamin A. Rifkin, Michael J. Akerman and Judith Folkenberg (Thames and Hudson, 2011)
- Women under the Knife. Ann Dally (Hutchinson Radiance, 1991)
- Objectivity. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison (Zone Books, 2007)
- The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present. Roy Porter (Fontana Press, 1999)
- Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century. W.F. Bynum (Cambridge University Press, 1994)
- The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. Michel Foucault (Vintage, 1963)
- Death, Dissection and the Destitute: The Politics of the Corpse in Pre-Victorian Britain. Ruth Richardson (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987)
You’ll notice the grand scale of these books and the heroic (and sometimes despotic and destitute) way that medicine is portrayed.
You may also notice the distinct lack of any books relating to physiotherapy. But why should this be?
Anyone attempting to account for physiotherapy’s past will encounter a dispiriting lack of archiving and commentary from within, and without, the physiotherapy community over the last century.
It seems that physiotherapists are either too modest, too biomechanical, or too indifferent to their own history to want to record it and offer critical commentary.
But why is this? Do we not have our heroines, our innovators and pioneers? Did we not play a dramatic role in rehabilitating war injured soldiers and polio victims? Did we not pioneer new approaches to children’s, intensive care and musculoskeletal rehabilitation? Are we not world leading biomechanists, pain specialists and exercise therapists?
The physical therapies are almost entirely absent from histories of medicine and health care over the last 200 years, and present day practitioners are doing little to preserve or account for our current approaches to practice.
Electronic data may be even more etherial than the texts and practices that we willingly disposed of in years gone by.
We must be better at archiving what we do, so that even if we have no capacity to provide commentary on it in the present, future generations will at least have the chance to look back and understand how our practices were changing, and why we did what we did.