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Yijie Huang

PhD student

PhD research funded by CSC Cambridge Scholarship (Cambridge Trust and China Scholarship Council), 2018-21

College: St Catharine’s

Supervisor: Lauren Kassell, Dániel Margócsy (advisor)

Thesis topic: The clock and the hand: taking the pulse in English medicine, 1650-1700

My doctoral research focuses on pulse diagnosis in late seventeenth-century England, exploring the dynamic interaction between books, hands and clockworks and how it innovated the pulse as both a physiological concept and a tactile entity. The principal innovation this research examines is the technology of counting the pulse, which was first elaborated systematically in English by the Oxonian physician Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) in his treatise The Physician’s Pulse-Watch (1707 & 1710). By studying a variety of seventeenth-century medical papers, cases and recipes, this research elucidates how Floyer’s contemporaries perceived and thought of the pulse in their unremitting observation of healthy and ill bodies, and what strategies they chose to adopt to express their hands and mind. This survey depicts the very “context” that bred and prompted the juxtaposition of touch and timekeeping in conceiving the pulse and framing its medical meaning and reason. Based on the “context”, the research offers an integral access to looking at the hybrid nature of Floyer’s pulse counting, which tried to cohere knowledge and practice ancient with recent, philosophical with empirical, indigenous with exotic. This will challenge the existing progressive interpretation of Pulse-Watch as evidence of the triumph of quantification over qualification and modernity over tradition, and inspire critical consideration of the empirical bases of what we may easily oversimplify as part of modern medicine.

Research interests: Early modern medicine; early modern natural history; early modern medical exchange; pre-modern Chinese medicine

 

Contact: yh397@cam.ac.uk

 

Talks

“I feel it, therefore I count it: John Floyer’s idioms, numbers and expression of touch in The Physician’s Pulse-Watch”, Bologna European Society of History of Science Conference, online, September 2020.  

“Flowing the observational similarity: seventeenth-century transmission of pulse knowledge between China and Europe”, International Conference in History of Science in East Asia (ICHSEA), Jeonju, Korea, August 2019.

“John Floyer’s watch: pulse diagnosis, clockwork metaphor and measured touch in seventeenth-century England”, British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, Cambridge, UK, April 2019.

 

Teaching

Part II Paper 1: Early Science & Medicine

 

Affiliation

Molina Fellow in the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Huntington Library, California, 2020-21