talk & discussion


Medical Letters from Persia

Friday, May 3rd, 2024, 6.30 pm

Venue: philomena+ project room, Heinestraße 40, 1020 Vienna

activity programme of the exhibition Darookhaneh Apotheke Pharmacy 

page from Jakob Eduard Polak's Fi tashrin badan al-insan (textbook on human anatomy) © Afsaneh Gächter

Medical Letters from Persia
The physician Jacob E. Polak (1818-1891) is regarded as the father of modern medicine in Iran. In 1851, he was invited by the Persian court to teach at the newly founded polytechnic college (Dar ol-Fonun) in Tehran. As a representative of the renowned Vienna School of Medicine, Polak laid the groundwork for the adoption of modern medicine in Iran.

In his medical letters to Viennese physicians, he conveyed his knowledge about diseases and treatment methods in Iran, thereby broadening the horizons of Viennese medical understanding regarding diseases and their treatment. His letters from Persia demonstrate that knowledge transfer between Europe and the Orient transcended post-colonial debates surrounding “Orientalism” and “Eurocentrism,” showcasing mutual exchange. The letters offer an intriguing glimpse into the shared medical history of Austria and Iran in the 19th century.

guest speaker

Afsaneh Gächter is a medical sociologist and medical historian whose research interests include the transfer of medical knowledge between Austria and Iran.

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