This article takes the commission of an elaborate and life-like obstetrical machine by the Italian midwifery instructor, Vincenzo Malacarne, in 1791 as a starting point for considering the ways that medical practitioners were renegotiating the relationship between the senses at the end of the eighteenth century. In particular, it focuses on the cultivation of touch as an authoritative and professionalised source of bodily knowledge. The article argues that Malacarne's obstetrical machine reflects an important moment of transition in the way medical practitioners were trained to interact with female patients, in which the manual exploration of a woman’s genitals was re-contextualised as an expression of scientific rationality and medical authority. A close examination of the use of obstetrical machines in midwifery training suggests, moreover, that women, too, whose touch had often been accused of irrationality and ignorance, had to be taught how to perform manual procedures in a rational and scientific manner.
Social History of Medicine
Kosmin, Jennifer. "Modelling Authority: Obstetrical Machines in the Instruction of Midwives and Surgeons in Eighteenth-Century Italy." (2021) : 509-531.