Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Stefanie Gänger – A Singular Remedy. Cinchona, Medicine, and the 'Four Corners of the Earth,' 1751-1820

Thursday, April 5, 2018

5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Rochambeau House, 84 Prospect Street 

"A Singular Remedy" is an account of the worldwide integration of medical understandings, practices, and materials in the decades around 1800. Centered on the ‘Peruvian bark’, or, cinchona, a medicine known and valued at the time in societies across ‘the four corners of the Earth’ (Francisco J. de Caldas, 1809), the book studies plant trade, therapeutic exchange, and epistemic brokerage, from Lima to Canton and from Paris to Constantinople. Its emphasis rests on how that ‘singular remedy’, as well as recipes, stories, and understandings attendant to its consumption – formulae for ‘bittersweet’ ‘aromatic’ wines made from it, narratives about its ‘discovery’ by ‘wild Indians’, or beliefs in its ability to ‘prevent fevers’ – moved both between and across societies: into Peruvian academies and Scottish households, Moroccan court pharmacies and Louisiana plantations alike. Cinchona, this book contends, was both a creature and a vehicle of a medical world laced together in the late 1700s and early 1800s; the book offers an account of how numerous men, women, and children came to share experiences at a level as fundamental as that of their body – of sickness, taste, and cure – within it.

Presented by Stefanie Gänger, University of Cologne, Germany.