The historiography of the neurosciences: themes and variations

Stephen Jacyna
Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London

For the purposes of this symposium, the historiography of the neurosciences seems to consist of two main elements: goals and frameworks. The former comprises the motivations that incite individuals to undertake work in the history of the neurosciences and the ends they hope to achieve by means of this work. The latter includes the questions that historians of neuroscience address, the conceptual resources they bring to their research, and what qualifies as a worthwhile answer. In this talk I will take up some of the issues raised by the other participants. I will ask why the history of the neurosciences should be of interest to scholars who are not also engaged in current scientific research within that field. The paper will explore the full implications of taking a concept like localization as the key to understanding the development of the neurosciences in a particular epoch. It will also consider whether particular research endeavours need to be conducted with an eye to some grand narrative of the progress of this field of knowledge. The paper ends with a discussion of whether the history of the neurosciences is best served by regarding it as an aspect of intellectual history or whether more emphasis should be placed upon the material culture of neuroscientific research.


Symposium: The Historiography of the Neurosciences
Saturday, 21 June 1997, 11.15 - 11.45

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands