A Global Rumor and the History of Science: The Case of a Fake Snakebite Prize That Connected Brazil, the French, and the British Empires (1880-1914)

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Abstract Summary
Informed by the recent achievements of bacteriology, doctors and scientists started researches on the last decades of the 19th century aiming to find a therapeutic serum against snakebites. Among then, one can mention Albert Calmette, a French doctor in duty in Indochina, and Vital Brazil, a Brazilian doctor based in São Paulo. Other than the similarity of their intellectual projects, they had another point in common: both thought they could win a scientific prize established by the Government of India for the discovery of a cure against snakebites. Working on antidotes for more than 20 years, Calmette and Vital Brazil would indeed answer the general idea of the prize and their contributions to the field are recognized until today. However, neither of them ever won this prize, and that happened for a simple reason: this prize never existed, it was a rumor of global dimensions. In my presentation, I would like to examine its origins and to discuss how it shaped the research of these two doctors. To do this, I will examine their scientific works and their correspondence with British and Indian authorities. In conclusion, I will argue that, in despite of its fakeness, the prize connected people in Brazil with others based in the French or British Empires and, because of that, this event can shed some light on current debates on the field of the history of science, especially on its interactions with the global history approach.
Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Contributed Paper
Abstract Topic
Medicine and Health
Chronological Classification :
19th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
Global history of science, Empires, Medicine

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