Group Portraits

  • It is rare to see early modern prints that depict medical practitioners in groups or involved in collective activities. Although this collection does have a small number of group images, the majority of the engravings depict individual men in a solitary domestic setting, such as a library. The individual nature of most portraits relates to enlightenment ideas of heroism and genius.
  • However, it is important to remember that individuals worked within networks. The foundation of medical societies and institutions from the sixteenth century onwards, including the foundation of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1681, corresponded with a general assertion that collaboration would aid the advancement of medicine in this period.
  • Men would work together throughout their training and career with other students, teachers and patrons. Especially in Edinburgh, where the medical marketplace was competitive it was important to have connections in order to become successful. Prints would be circulated in a specific interest group in order to cultivate professional reputations and connections to specific patrons and institutions. These networks and links within a wider medical community are often alluded to in a subtle way in the portraits of individual men of science.
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