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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Virus. Beiträge zur Sozialgeschichte der Medizin
Title of proceedings Virus. Beiträge zur Sozialgeschichte der Medizin


Totalling a number of twelve practice diaries written by the Swiss lay-healer Gottfried Wachter (1776-1861), the Institute and Museum of the History of Medicine of the University of Zurich is in possession of an extremely precious historical source. Recorded between the years 1803 and 1843 these notes reveal the methods of therapeutical treatment as applied by a medical practitioner, who had never been trained either at a university medical faculty nor in practice by a surgeon. Therefore these diaries allow insights into the daily business of a non-licensed lay-healer in the Swiss country side (for instance the structure of his day to day practice, patients social profiles as well as various methods of medical treatment). This article focuses on factual methods of treatment as applied by Wachter. Did his range of services overlap with those offered by other medical practitioners and surgeon? And - in comparison with other available services - were his methods typical for a lay-healer?