Intimate Climates

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

Vladimir Jankovic, “Intimate Climates: From Skins to Streets, Soirees to Societies,” in Intimate Universality: Local and Global Themes in the History of Weather and Climate eds. James Fleming, Vladimir Jankovic, and Deborah Coen, 1-34 (Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications, 2006).

In this chapter, Jankovic is interested in the dichotomy of the indoor/outdoor and in understandings (from literary and medical sources) of weather before the mass quantitative study of it really took off. He is particularly interested in indoor environments, an understudied aspect of weather — “intimate meteorologies.”

!!!Probably the most well-written and cited introduction to revival of interest in “air, waters, places”-type medicine at the end of the 18th century!!!

Medical meteorology — “a genre devoted to understanding the relationship between the body and its socio-physical surroundings that in the last decade of the 18th century consumed the energy of the ever-growing numbers of practitioners seeking to resolve an impasse created by the ineffectual heroic treatment and the perplexing pharmacopoeia of the medicinal market.” (1-2)

Outlines argument in scholarship that “a wide-ranging interest in the quantitative investigation of the properties of airs, gases, atmospheres, and climates,” especially in regards to human health — “environmental medicine” (Ludmilla Jordanova), “medicine of climates and places” (Michel Foucault), “environmental paradigm” (David Arnold), “environmentalism” (James Riley) — emerged “some time before the year 1800.” This interest is made visible by the rising interest in the sciences of “eudiometry, medical topography, altitude physiology, medical pneumatics, gas chemistry, and climatotherapy…” I’d add hydrology/hydrotherapy and balneology. (2)

Argues that early (pre-1830s) interest in meteorology and quantifying weather was driven by medical concerns. (4-5) Most people gathering data early on were doctors in hopes of providing others with medically-informed referential material for use in choosing a residence (and I assume a vacation/resort spot).

Posits that “the analyses of health as a result of” the direct influence of air, soil, water, climate, topography, temperature “on individuals and populations…emerged as the principal new development with thin 18th and 19th century Hippocratic medicine,” and that “on the mundane level, the practices related to mitigating these influences had a more lasting influence on the rise of an ‘environmental’ outlook than chemical and epidemiological investigations.” (7)

Pretty sophisticated discussion of sensibility; the more sensitive, the more open the body was to outside influences (air, climate, water, etc.). Weaker constitutions were more sensible and more at risk when changes in surrounding occurred. These theories were developed in Scotland (Edinburgh) and France (Paris). Challenged autonomy of individuals – climatic/environmental determinism. Became part of wider discussion (political, economic, moral). (8-10)

A problem of the wealthy: Sensibility became a problem of the wealthy, whose “artificial/abnormal…new spaces of lifework,” characterized by “urban consumerism, sedentariness, indolence, and fashion” were detrimental to their health. Commentary came from many directions; medical, literary, political. “The peasant archetype became the medical norm against whom the unnatural urbanite was measured in both moral and organic terms.” Because they never exposed themselves, they became extra-sensitive when they did. (11-12)

  • The “hypersensitive body [was] defined as culture-determined and class-based,” which meant that to suffer from it “could not but become and achievement that marked a select few…” (18) And so going to a resort was affirmation that you suffered from these ills, and participating in “society” while there reaffirmed and reinforced social status.

People were spending more and more time in artificial, indoor places — industrialization meant longer working hours. City life meant less time outside. New communal public spaces — coffee houses, lecture theaters, clubs, card rooms, libraries — were overcrowded and smelly, causing “overheating, fatigue, and depression of spirits resulting from congestion.” (13)

Description of how people hung out, which was changing in the mid- to late-18th century. Wallpaper, carpets, curtains, candles, and parties with a ton of people in one room. Would have been hot, cramped, stuffy, and quite unhealthy — even in today’s standards (and much moreso contemporaneously considering the medical paradigm we’re working with). (14-15)

“The sensitivity to air that informed the early-19th century interest in weather as an outdoor phenomenon was in some important elements defined by its indoor- and body-oriented origins. It reflected the medical implications of social and geographic placements that defined the vulnerability of the self-styled modern man.” (18)

Urban pathologization: “…the early 19th century medics constantly emphasized the artificiality of the newly created spaces of work, sleep, and the bacchanal. In their view, these spaces deteriorated not only pathologically — measured in statistics, sights, and smells — but primarily because they transgressed the normal contours of morbidity found in the places governed by divine dispensation of health and disease.” (19)

  • Goes on to discuss moral and physiological consequences of aggressive and greedy industrialization — understood typhus as a consequence of “the overstretching of natural powers.” (20)
  • Natural weather less important in urban areas; the unhealthfulness of industry trumped, overtook “natural” conditions

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