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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman


by Laurence Sterne

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman Science Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"Dr. Slop … had expressly wrote a five shillings book upon the subject of midwifery, in which he had exposed, not only the blunders of the sisterhood itself,--but had likewise superadded many curious improvements for the quicker extraction of the foetus in cross births" (1.18.1)

Why does Dr. Slop think that he knows better than midwives who have been practicing their arts for centuries? (Yeah, lots of women used to die in childbirth—but that number went way up once doctors and their filthy hands took over.) Including the price of the book makes it sound more like a money-making venture than an actual step forward in safety.

Quote #2

What, therefore, seemed the least liable to objections of any, was that the chief sensorium, or headquarters of the soul, and to which place all intelligences were referred, and from whence all her mandates were issued,—was in, or near, the cerebellum,—or rather somewhere about the medulla oblongata, wherein it was generally agreed by Dutch anatomists that all the minute nerves from all the organs of the seven senses concentered (2.5.17)

Here's an example of scientific thinking mixed up with something we like to call magical thinking. Mr. Shandy has read all the latest anatomy textbooks, but none of them agree about where the body starts and the mind begins (this is way before neurology and freaky experiments on mice). Maybe science can help sort things out—but more likely, it'll just confuse the issue.

Quote #3

"When my father had got so far,—what a blaze of light did the accounts of the Caesarian section, and of the towering geniuses who had come safe into the world by it, cast upon this hypothesis? (2.5.25-26)

Mr. Shandy's scientific explorations have gotten so absurd that he's decided C-sections are better for babies than natural births, because natural births squish babies' brains. Given the lack of sterilization and antibiotics at the time, C-sections were not too great for the moms. (Life in general was not great for babies.) Mr. Shandy's enthusiasm for the operation shows just how much common sense gets lost when science takes over.

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