Medical Practice of Bloesch

The medical practice of Caesar Adolph Bloesch (1804-1863)

Research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, 2008-2011, 2011-2013

This project examines the medical practice of Caesar Adolph Bloesch (1804-1863), physician in the city of Biel in Switzerland. It is based on his exceptional 25,000-pages casebooks in which he recorded all his consultations conducted in the years 1832-1863. The patient records contain information on the patients, the patient history, Bloesch's examination and therapy. Despite the efforts of the social history of medicine we are still insufficiently informed about the daily medical life of earlier times. This much is true also for the medical practice as the central place of interaction between physician and patient, which could tell us a lot about significant social structures and developments. The project is based on the general concept of one single medical culture which physicians as well as patients helped to shape.

In a first stage, a full transcription of the volumes of selected years as well as the general data of the consultations of all years and the data of two census of Biel from the period of interest will be established. In addition to the case books, Bloesch's extensive notes and publications and further private and official sources will be used.

The main research consists of two complementary studies on the practice form the physician's and the patients' point of view based on a quantitative as well as a qualitative, a socio-historical as well as a cultural-historical approach. They will investigate the structure and importance of the medical practice and the attitudes, roles and behaviours of both actors in order to improve our knowledge of medical culture and its transformation in the 19th century. The project is part of a German-Swiss-Austrian working group focussing on the investigation of medical practices from the 17th to the 20th century. As each practice is different, a special emphasis is laid on comparison and comparability. Thanks to a rich variety of sources it will be possible to allow for the specific local conditions and thus to reach conclusions of significance beyond the case in hand.

Principal investigators

  • Hubert Steinke (Institute for the History of Medicine, Bern)
  • Brigitte Studer (Institute for History, Bern)

Research assistants and PhD students

  • Philipp Klaas, MA
  • Lina Gafner, MA

MD students (transcription and analysis)

Stefan Herbart, Anne-Cathrine Jaun, Justin Jaun, Zvonimir Krcmaric, Lorenz Landolt, Martin Music, Amir Pourmand, Michel Sekulic, Moritz Strickler, Lukas Wernli

Graduate assistants (data acquisition and standardization)

Samuel Burri, Christian Forney, Isabel Käser, Florian Müller, Lorenz Schläfli, Patrick Spiri, Carlo Steiner, Samuel Studer

Former employees

Olivia Schaub, MA; Raffael von Niederhäusern, MA