There must be something in the water! Mineral baths and the politics of healing in 19th and 20th century Greece
This seminar discusses the legacy of two medical protagonists behind the Greek Thermalism movement. Xavier Landerer (1809-1885), the Bavarian scientist and military pharmacist of King Otto and Dr Eugenios Fokas (1903-1970) who held the first chair for hydrotherapy and medical climatology in the University of Athens.
In the decades following the newly established Greek State in the 19th century, mineral spring waters, abundant across the country, presented a promise: a healing network. Construction of baths, roads, railway networks and other infrastructures could bring health, prosperity, progress and tourism. The properties of these waters in sites across Greece were analyzed and described by doctors and chemists. They featured in publications and were presented in international exhibitions.
This seminar explores the legacy of two medical protagonists behind this movement: Xavier Landerer (1809-1885), the Bavarian scientist and military pharmacist of King Otto and Dr Eugenios Fokas (1903-1970) who held the first chair for hydrotherapy and medical climatology in the University of Athens. Both doctors, professors and avid advocates of the healing waters of Greece, they represented two significant historical moments. The first moment in the 19th century, reflects how the analysis of water and soil coupled with terrain mapping led to a scientific understanding of the country’s mineral wealth. The second moment, nearly a century later, embodies the spirit of an organized effort by the Greek state to turn those sites into international destinations for scientific gatherings, hydrotherapy and other forms of leisure.
These two key actors of the movement are connected to the discourses, laws, and institutions that led to Thermalism’s architectures. In this seminar, Xynogala analyzes the ideological and political underpinnings of their rhetorics and in parallel, she links them to the emergence of neo-Hippocratic thought in France, England and the US. The talk will highlight how state, science, foreign policies, and urban planning were intertwined. Her discussion will be centered around select spaces of knowledge: the Laboratory and the University. Within them, experiments, treatises and teachings motivated the construction of healing environments around Greece.
Lydia Xynogala, Doctoral Fellow, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich