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Journal Article

Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532–1585)

Alisha Rankin
Isis
Vol. 98, No. 1 (March 2007), pp. 23-53
DOI: 10.1086/512830
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/512830
Page Count: 31
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Becoming an Expert Practitioner
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Abstract

Abstract This essay proposes that the well‐documented interest in empirical and experimental practice at the early modern German courts was not limited to male practitioners. Just as princes evinced an interest in practical alchemy, mathematics, and astronomy, a large number of gentlewomen became expert medical practitioners. Using a case study of one noblewoman, Electress Anna of Saxony, I would like to expand the notion of “prince‐practitioning” to a more general and inclusive “court experimentalism.” Like the prince‐practitioners, Anna engaged in a laborious attempt to learn the hands‐on techniques involved in becoming an expert; she collaborated with both noblewomen and noblemen in her efforts; and she semantically linked her medicine to the alchemical skills (Künste) practiced by her husband, Elector August. Although court experimentalism cannot be equated with experimentation in the modern sense, medicine is one area in which women actively shared in the early modern fascination with empirical knowledge.

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