Medicine and Mechanics in Antiquity: Towards an Early History of Iatromechanics

We are pleased to announce a one-day workshop on « Medicine and Mechanics in Antiquity: Towards an Early History of Iatromechanics », which will take place at the University of Cyprus (Nicosia) on the 1st of December 2017. The workshop has no registration fee, but, if you wish to attend, please contact jointly the organizers, Maria Gerolemou ( and George Kazantzidis ( A detailed programme will be circulated in due time.

Speakers include:

Marquis Berrey (Iowa)
Sean Coughlin (Humboldt)
Jane Draycott (Glasgow)
Maria Gerolemou (University of Cyrpus)
George Kazantzidis (Patras)
Orly Lewis (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Kirsi Lorentz (The Cyprus Institute)
Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (Oxford)
Courtney Roby (Cornell)
Ian Ruffell (Glasgow)
Matteo Valleriani (Max Planck Institute)

The aim of this workshop is to explore the dialogue between the sciences of medicine and mechanics in classical antiquity. Iatromechanics (or iatrophysics) makes its appearance as a medical school of thought during the seventeenth century: by adopting mechanical principles in order to explain human physiology, its proponents advance the view that human life can be fully explained in terms of physics, and cures really only need to restore the proper functioning of the human machine by tightening or loosening or tinkering with the mechanism. Our aim is to examine the extent to which similar models of the human body can be traced in ancient medical texts (as was maintained, for the first time systematically, in the work of Friedrich Hoffmann, 1660-1742; cf. Lonie 1981), in association with the increased anatomical knowledge gained through dissection and in dialogue with scientific advancements in the field of mechanics – especially from the Hellenistic period onward. At the same time, we wish to discuss the adaptation of medical lore and discourse in mechanical texts, in contexts where engineers contrive and produce artifacts which, though extending beyond the natural world, are still conceived in analogy with the human body and its functions. By insisting on the desired life-like qualities of its technology, ancient mechanics invokes medicine in a way that essentially blurs the line between the natural and the artificial, by inviting us to view the operation of a well-crafted machine in light of the spontaneous automatisms that rule human life.

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Publié par

Pierre Diouf

Enseignant-Chercheur à l'UCAD Dakar-Sénégal Associé à HiSoMA UMR 5189 CNRS Docteur en Langues, Histoire et Civilisations des Mondes Anciens

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