King’s College London, Annual Lecture in the History of Healthcare and Medicine

“Narrative at the Bedside: The Transformation of the Patient Record in the Long Nineteenth Century”

Wednesday 16 January 2013, 5 pm

Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King’s Building 6th Floor, Strand Campus

Professor John Harley Warner, Yale University

Abstract: Between the early and closing decades of the nineteenth century, the hospital patient chart was transformed. The textual presence of not only the individuated sick person but also the individual physician all but vanished, part of a larger program to eradicate ‘the personal equation’. Professor Harley Warner explores the epistemological, technical, and moral choices at work in shaping this modern medical case record, giving particular attention to how the new version of scientific medicine that the experimental laboratory emblemised brought to the practice of clinical narrative a new aesthetic preference. He suggests how this transformation in the clinical practice of writing took part in making and expressing a new kind of professional identity, reshaping clinicians’ conceptions both of patients and of themselves and setting in place one cornerstone in the grounding of modern medicine-with lasting biomedical and human consequences.

He will close the lecture by looking at efforts early in the twentieth century to establish this model for clinical narrative as the norm, and at the reaction against this program just after the close of the First World War, part of a broader postwar impulse to reenchant the art of healing in an age of medical science.

Further details of the annual lecture and seminars in the Spring Term can be found at