Western medicine was born in the Mediterranean world, as the result of cross-fertilization between the rich healing traditions of peoples living in southern Europe, northern Africa and the Near East. It came of age, however, in the Atlantic world. In this new phase of its complex evolution, Western medicine grew out of creative interactions between peoples from Europe, western Africa, and the Americas.

From the sixteenth century onwards, the consolidation of long-distance sea routes fueled successive waves of cultural hybridization that had a significant impact on medical practice. Healers and patients traveled along these routes carrying exotic germs, medical textbooks, preconceived notions, and miraculous drugs. These nomadic agents were instrumental in the development of novel strategies for collecting, organizing, and processing vast amounts of information about the human body and the natural world. This exhibit is an attempt to show how transoceanic circulation contributed to the development of some of the healing practices, public health initiatives, and scientific principles that lie at the core of modern Western medicine.


This exhibition was curated by Kenneth Ward, Adrián López-Denis, and a team of ten undergraduate Brown University students.