Monthly Archives: January 2017

Friday, 3 February 2017 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Gustavo Garza, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

“Thomas Edison, the Phonograph, and the Sacred: Phonographic Musings on Life and Death”

Thomas Edison’s phonograph was widely hailed as his “baby,” and he consistently positioned it as one of his most important inventions. As he continued his phonograph development and experimentation, Edison utilized the specific processes of sound recording to support grand claims about science, human anatomy and behavior, technology, and social and cultural development. From the structure of the atom and the composition of living and non-living things to the workings of the cosmos, Edison relied on the phonograph’s mechanical operation as a way to structure and legitimize his theory of “life units,” which reduced the visible and invisible experiences in the world to a unified theory of physics. In this context, Edison challenged the dichotomy between the material and immaterial with his phonographic work. It was precisely this mechanical ability to both model the basics of organic life and capture, preserve, and reproduce the human voice and expression — the tension between the mechanical and non-mechanical — where the phonograph exposed potential blurring of long-accepted ideas about the uniqueness of human beings and the otherworldliness of religion and other spiritual practices.


Gustavo Garza currently is a history teacher and department chair at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin. After earning a BA in History from UT in 2002, he pursued and  completed a PhD at UCLA in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology field. While finishing up his PhD, Gustavo taught at the Oakwood School in the Los Angeles area for seven years, and has been back in Austin now for four years. Also, he currently is interested in the history of the Bureau of Land Management and the scientific practices and technologies that shaped this institution.


Friday, 20 January 2017 — 12:00 noon — GAR 1.102 — joint meeting with the Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality

Scottie Buehler, UCLA

“A Simulacrum of Birth: The Pedagogical Instruments and Obstetrical Course of Madame du Coudray”

In 1756 Madame Angelique du Coudray received an official approbation from the French College of Surgery for her midwifery mannequin. The combination of her textbook, “Abrégé de L’art des Accouchements,” and the mannequin earned her a brevet from King Louis XV to travel the French countryside teaching obstetrics. The second edition of the work added 26 color plates—the first in obstetrics—utilizing the new technology of color mezzotinting. Analyzing her textbook, mannequin, and images as scientific instruments brings her pedagogical practices and their social and cultural contexts to the forefront. This approach recognizes the embodied nature of thinking and attempts to untangle the relationship between thought and other actions within her classroom. While maintaining that each of du Coudray’s objects (text, images, and mannequin) were self-vindicating, this paper challenges their epistemological stability and explores the objects’ role in justifying du Coudray’s program. Each of these objects and her broader project of educating provincial midwives frequently inspired attacks, from both male accoucheurs and female midwives. These conflicts provide crucial insight into how the users of these objects engaged with them, sometimes in unanticipated ways. The resulting narrative complicates the traditional history of midwifery in which male and female practitioners operated within separate, opposing spheres of the medical world of eighteenth century France.


Scottie Buehler is a midwife turned historian of medicine. After earning her BA in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies from UT in 2006, she became a Certified Professional Midwife and founded and operated Motherwit Midwifery, a homebirth midwifery practice in Austin. She is now a fourth year doctoral student in history of science, medicine, and technology at UCLA. Her dissertation is a practice- and object-oriented history of obstetrical training courses in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. In addition to the history of early modern European midwifery, she also researches the history of the body, history of the book, and history of anatomy. Scottie is currently a Chateaubriand Fellow conducting her dissertation research in France.