chapter  3
Surgery and scrophula
ByRoger French
Pages 16

This chapter explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century perceptions of scrophula. It investigates what doctors and surgeons saw and meant when they used the term 'scrophula', and how their picture of it was constructed. All agreed that scrophula was also known as the 'King's Evil', having been thought for several centuries to be curable at the touch of a king. The criteria Richard Wiseman used to define scrophula may well have been known to the individuals who were making application, the more so after Wiseman published his description of the disease in 1676. Even after Wiseman's time the scale of the ceremony of the royal touch – James II touched heroically – must have had the effect of displaying and confirming the British consensus or 'package'. The records of the Aberdeen infirmary are particularly useful for a study of scrophula. The case histories show that the Infirmary scrophula were entertained as diagnostic categories.