The book's strength is Romano's clear delineation of Burdon Sanderson's positivism. She makes clear not only its limitations as a philosophy of biomedical science but also its utility as a basis for criticism of the speculative germ theories of the 1860s and 1870s and the growing gulf between bacteriology and pathology in later decades. Romano is also strong in describing and situating Burdon Sanderson's eclectic and often interstitial research programs. Choosing to work on a range of unconnected problems, he resisted the growing tendency toward specialization yet suffered being regarded, particularly by the rising German savants whose approbation he so desired, as irrelevant, backward, and marginal.
The book's main weakness is context: Romano's sketch of Burdon Sanderson's evangelical upbringing and later reaction to it, his motives for a career in medical research, and his association with philosophical and religious outlooks is tentative, confused, and superficial. Others, too, were seeking careers in scientific or experimental medicine; it would help a good deal to get a better sense of what made this suddenly to seem a viable way of "making a medical living," to use Anne Digby's term. Finally, on issues ranging from vivisection to sanitarianism, Simonian science, and scientific naturalism, we need a fuller sense of how Burdon Sanderson differed from his colleagues.
If most historians of nineteenth-century British medicine will recognize John Burdon Sanderson (1829ñ1905), few will link him to any particular scientific or institutional achievement, yet he was a central figure. In the 1860s he was the most visible and successful of the group of pathologists recruited by John Simon; in the 1870s he was professor of practical physiology and histology at University College London (UCL); in the 1880s, the first Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford, where he finished his career as Regius Professor of Medicine. Terrie Romano uses Burdon Sanderson as means to explore the emergence of "scientific medicine" in Victorian Britain (in fact, in England). She is interested in scientific medicine both as an ideal, one widely appealed to (because, as Romano notes, there was little constituency for unscientific medicine), but also as achievement in experimental medicine: how did England fare in comparison to France and Germany in developing programs of pathology and physiology that might ultimately (but not immediately) inform clinical practice? Despite Burdon Sanderson's efforts, not well.
The Burdon Sanderson that Romano sketches, was, with the exception of his espousal of Bernardian positivistic physiology, not especially reflective or articulate either about his own career or...