Hypochondria in Early Modern Istanbul: The Iago Galdston Lecture

Paul Theerman's picture
September 17, 2015
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Islamic History / Studies

Hypochondria in Early Modern Istanbul: The Iago Galdston Lecture

In his famous Quintet of Modern Diseases, Hayatizade Mustafa Feyzi, the Chief Physician to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687), claimed that by far the most prevalent disease in Istanbul was hypochondria. He believed that it was a distinctly modern disease that afflicted mostly intellectuals. The countless epidemics that visited the city, the poor quality of the air, and the recent proliferation of medical knowledge all contributed to this widespread phenomenon. Hypochondria was also an ambiguous disease with shifting symptoms—was it a disease of the stomach or of the head, was it delusion or indigestion, and could it cause fevers? Travelling doctors were greeted in each city with people all too eager to extend their arms for a pulse check, while others found a lively market for books on self-diagnosis. This talk by historian B. Harun Küçük of the University of Pennsylvania will piece together the cultural history of hypochondria in Istanbul and its immediate surroundings, using Ottoman and European medical and travel literature.

B. Harun Küçük received his BA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College and an MA in History at Sabancı University in Istanbul, Turkey. He completed his doctoral work on History and Science Studies at University of California, San Diego, in 2012. Prior to joining the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, he was a lecturer at Sabancı and Şehir Universities in Istanbul, and held pre- and post-doctoral fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Küçük's research interests include science and religion, the Enlightenment, and the movement of knowledge in the early modern period.

Contact Info: 

Paul Theerman, PhD

Associate Director

Library and Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

New York Academy of Medicine

1216 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY, 10029


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