Pharmacy in History Interview—Rachael Pymm, “Transmitting Medical Exotica”

This post is from Points, the joint blog of AIHP and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. Points publishes original reflections about the history of drugs, medicines, alcohol, pharmacy, and their allied fields.

This is the second installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the latest issue of Pharmacy in History (vol. 62, no. 3-4). Today we feature Rachael Pymm, an independent researcher, holding an MA from the History Department of Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. You can see her article here.

Article Abstract for “Transmitting Medical Exotica: Louis Philiberto Vernatti, the Snakestone, and the Royal Society “

Snakestones, purported to naturally generate in the head of a snake, were reputed to be a cure for snakebites in the early modern world. Against the backdrop of European exoticism, which influenced the circulation of pharmaceutical and medical knowledge, snakestones became a subject of popular and scholarly interest during the late seventeenth century. Analyzing unpublished archival evidence, this paper considers the circumstances of the 1664 transmission of an individual snakestone from Batavia, Indonesia, to the Royal Society in London, England. Unlike other pharmaceutical exotica that was commonly conveyed via large-scale commercial networks, the trade in snakestones was characterized by small-scale transfer in the manner of kunstkammer materials.

Tell readers a little bit about yourself:

I’m an independent scholar based in the UK, and I work in Professional Services at a university. I have a broad range of academic interests, including the history of medicine, as well as the medieval crusades and how they have been memorialized on postage stamps. I have been researching unusual animal-based materia medica—particularly snakestones—for a number of years, alongside my work and family commitments. Researching in this way can be challenging, particularly in terms of time management, but I really love my subject. And I have a very supportive family most of whom—including my six year old son—are now fully conversant in snakestone lore!

Read the rest of this interview on Points.

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