The Victorian Vivisection Debate

Frances Power Cobbe, Experimental Science and the “Claims of Brutes”

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About the Book

Is it justifiable for scientists to subject live animals to open operations—forcing them to suffer for the benefit of humans? This book expounds upon a debate among such experimental scientists as Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in Victorian England—at a time in which animal cruelty (bear-baiting, e.g.) was ubiquitous. Journalist and reformer Frances Power Cobbe became so incensed that she devoted her political and legislative talents over a thirty year period to prohibiting vivisection.
Struggling within severe medical limitations was London surgeon Lister, hardly able to operate for fear his patients would succumb to sepsis. After reading of Pasteur’s new theory about germs, Lister helped revolutionize hospital care.
These two scientists and Koch then expanded the scientific base by animal experiments. As their methods improved, they transformed medicine into a beneficent institution within British culture. No single adversarial movement could have held back the tide of modernism. The author brings the debate up to the 21st century by analyzing modern-day animal rights theories, and offers a credo for readers who remain undecided.

About the Author(s)

Theodore G. Obenchain is a retired neurological surgeon. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Bibliographic Details

Theodore G. Obenchain
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 296
Bibliographic Info: 32 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7119-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Introduction      1

PART I: ORIGINS OF ANTIVIVISECTION      7
1. Frances Power Cobbe, the Great Sunbeam      8
2. The Rights of Man and the Claims of Brutes      21

PART II: GRATUITOUS VERSUS JUSTIFIED EXPLOITATION      35
3. The Early Vivisectors      36

PART III: FERMENTATION AND SUPPURATION      48
4. Joseph Lister and Hospitalism: Is It Something in the Air?      49
5. Louis Pasteur: Specific Microbes Cause Specific Conditions      57
6. Lister: “It really charms me”      66

PART IV: HER MAJESTY’S ROYAL COMMISSION      74
7. France Power Cobbe’s Petition      75
8. “This legislation is wholly uncalled for”      85

PART V: GERM THEORY EXPANDED      97
9. Robert Koch: Templates of Hospitalism      98
10. Louis Pasteur: The Infinitely Small Are Infinitely Great      111
11. Showdown at Melun      119

PART VI: THE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CONGRESS OF 1881      126
12. Portents of a Notable Decade      127
13. Professor Ferrier and His Monkeys      137
14. The Captain of All the Men of Death      152

PART VII: RETREAT TO WALES      166
15. Quitting London      167

PART VIII: SALVATION BY FILTH      177
16. La Rage      178
17. “Whither is Pasteurism to lead us?”      193
18. Tuberculin: “Experiment Not Discovery”      202

PART IX: TRIUMPH AND DESCENT      209
19. Nearly Universal      210
20. Lister’s Retrospective      218
21. Descent      226

PART X: UPDATE      235
22. Science Must Go On and On      236

Epilogue      253
Chapter Notes      259
Bibliography      273
Index      281

Book Reviews & Awards

“Recommended”—Choice.