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3 The Rhetoric and Politics of Discovery 58 CHAPTER 3 T HE metropolitan medical press played a critical role in constructing knowledge about the empire. From time to time imperial doctors, to be sure, complained about the profession's indifference to medicine in the empire .1 But it would be misleading to suggest that the Victorian medical press was indifferent either to the empire or to imperial doctors. On the contrary, the Lancet, theBritishMedical Journal, and theMedical Times and Gazette, to name a few, foregrounded the empire in a number of formats.2 They regularly published student examination results for the Army Medical School at Netley and the Naval Medical School at Haslar and promotion lists for the state services , that is, the Army, Indian, and Naval Medical Services. Editorials roundly deplored the social subordination of medical professionals in the state services and colonial services ofthe dependent empire. The correspondence pages carried advertisements for private practices and printed requests for information about prospects in the self-governingcolonies ofwhite settlement. Original articles on diseases and special features on epidemics in the empire formed part of the staple coverage on preventive medicine and public health. Finally, short notices on the activities ofprofessional societies as well as book reviews kept the empire before the profession. The coverage of the empire had cultural consequences for British medicine : It enmeshed the metropolitan profession, as much as it did practitioners in the empire, in the processes of imperialism. The rhetorical accessibility of the empire diminished the distance between practitioners in the metropole and in the periphery while transformingthe metropolitan medical press into a medium of imperial medicine. Ideologically, the representation of indigenous practices as backward and of the periphery as an alternative disease space did more than simplyregister the European encounterwith alien environments and systems of medicine. It helped to consolidate the image of Britain as a healthy and advanced society and British medicine as a force for progress and a symbol of modernity. However, it would be equally misleading to suggest that the process of making imperial knowledge was a harmonious one. The very function of the press politicized the process. By expediting the circulation of news and information about the periphery, metropolitan publicity increased, rather than diminished , the conflict over the priority of discovery. Underlying these disputes were the social tensions between workers in the empire and those at home. Who was best qualified to authorize or authenticate new knowledge? Was it the specialist in the periphery or the one in the metropole? The former, who emigrated for better prospects, or the latter, who made his way in London? It should not come as a surprise that conflict defined the discovery of the different stages of the life cycle of the Filaria sanguinis hominis worm, the THE RHETORIC AND POLITICS OF DISCOVERY 59 only known parasite adapted to exist in the human bloodstream. The discovery ofthe filaria worm was a considerable novelty and source of constant friction between Thomas S. Cobbold, a leading natural scientist based in London, and Timothy R. Lewis, a surgeon in the British army in India (Figure 8). The pages of the medical press not only enabled Cobbold and Lewis to transcend geography in the pursuit of their common interests but also provided each with a medium to secure scientific credit for the identification of the immature and adult stages of the filaria worm. Over several years, their dispute received regular coverage in one format or another, including original communications, lead articles, research notices, reports on medical societies, letters to the editor , and book reviews. The publicized conflict between Cobbold and Lewis led to Manson's discovery of the mosquito as intermediary host of the filaria worm by generating an audience for its reception. Writing from China, Manson solicited the endorsement of Cobbold and Lewis, who had previously feuded over credit for the discovery of the adult stage. They arrived at opposing views about the significance of Manson's research. Cobbold announced the discovery of the intermediary host based on Manson's account and slide preparations of filaria development. Mter failing to verify experimentally the development of the larval stage as Manson reported, Lewis published a skeptical report within months after Cobbold's announcement. While these conflicting conclusions raised doubts about the credibility of Manson's discovery, they nonetheless created a rhetorical space for its validation. As this chapter will show, Manson and the mosquito prevailed not because of the explanatory power of experimental science alone but in concert with...


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