Healing the body to save the soul: Jesuit medicine in 17th century Asia

Oana Baboi

Award: 2018 Doctoral Completion Award

How to preserve and restore health while evangelizing overseas? Since its inception, one of the primary activities of the Society of Jesus was to send its members on evangelical missions to all corners of the world. As many Jesuits had difficulties adapting to the Asian climate and helplessly watched their bodies succumb to unfamiliar diseases, they became eager to learn about local healing practices. My doctoral project explores how Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century China constructed medical knowledge in order to cope with previously unknown ailments. In particular, it examines how they studied and tested the efficacy of local medicinal herbs, remedies and therapeutics before disseminating this healing knowledge and materia medica across the globe.