As editor of Wonders & Marvels, I have the pleasure
of introducing our monthly regular contributors.
On the docket today is Marri Lynn…
Holly Tucker: Hi Marri. So glad to have you on the W&M. Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself?
Marri Lynn: I’m glad to be a part of W&M! I have an MA in medical history from McGill University, and I studied history at the University of Victoria for my BA just before that. Since receiving my MA, I’ve been studying French and working as the copy editor for the McGill Tribune. I unexpectedly fell in love with the city of Montreal while studying for my MA here, and so I’m prolonging the affair as long as possible, continuing to look for opportunities in this city sans pareil.
HT: When did you know that you wanted to be a historian–and a historian of medicine to boot?
ML: At the core, I’m driven by stories. It was actually research for a character for a fiction piece that led me to discover medical history. I became fascinated with the ways in which people understood (or sometimes did not understand) health. Health, and the struggle to understand and preserve it, is a core struggle throughout time, and it intersects in fascinating ways with other human dramas like religion, gender and sexuality, and science. I found myself encouraged in this direction by many wonderful mentors; before I knew it, I was writing my undergraduate honors thesis on nineteenth-century phlebotomy, delivering a lecture on Vesalius’ use of mechanical metaphors at a symposium, and then boarding a plane for Washington, D.C., to study Byzantine spices-as-medicine for two weeks at the amazing Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions. (Link to their website.)
HT: I usually pick topics not because I know much about them, but because I know that I want to learn more. What areas still mystify you when it comes to the history of medicine? What do you want most to learn?
ML: Too many, and too much. One thing that I keep coming back to is medicine in the context of cultural exchanges, especially along Eastern-Western lines. The work of Shigehisa Kuriyama really opened my perception of these exchanges, after I read his article about the relationship between Chinese acupuncture and Western bloodletting while researching for my undergraduate thesis. (To read it, see: “Interpreting the History of Bloodletting,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 50, 11-46 (1995).) I’ve also always been particularly interested in ‘rangaku,’ or Japan’s reception of Dutch (and broadly Western) scientific and medical knowledge in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
HT: Now I always ask this of contributors, so bear with me: If you could spend one day in the past, what day would it be? Why?
I dreaded this question! And meditated (and anguished) far too long on it. Setting aside many tantalizing choices, I think I’d like to spend a day on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816, during that summer when Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, and John Polidori hung out together and catalyzed the horror genre. Getting to meet these people both as individuals and as players within an (in)famous group dynamic would really be a treat, and the proverbial icing on the cake of a kind of personal and cultural imaginative indebtedness I’ve felt toward them since I was younger. It would answer a few historical questions and really electrify my own creativity in addition to being a great time.