Reflections on Water, Public Lecture

The Sparkling Nectar of Spas: Chemical Knowledge and the Commodification of Spa Water during the Late 18th Century

10 March, 17:30 to 18:30, Room 202, Calman Learning Centre, Science Site, Dr Matthew Eddy (Philosphy, Durham University)

This is the twelfth and final lecture in the ‘Reflections on Water’ public lecture series.

In 1793, Peterhead, a provincial Scottish town, celebrated the installation of a new pump room in which residents and visitors could enjoy a drink of its wine-colored spa water. Although the salubrious effects of the water had been known for centuries throughout the north of Britain, Peterhead’s new trading links to Holland, England, and the Baltic ensured the arrival of guests who knew nothing of the well’s virtues.  This paper addresses how spa water was commodified in the late 18th century. In the end we will see that this sleepy provincial location was, indeed, not very sleepy, and that the events surrounding the spa’s commodification have much to say about the public understanding of biomedical science and health at the end of the Enlightenment.

This series of public lectures brings together eminent scientists, historians, theologians and philosophers, stimulating speakers involved in current research, to shed new light on the nature and cultural significance of a very familiar substance.

The level of the talks is aimed at a general audience to encourage everyone from students and the interested general public to attend.