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CEFISES Seminar: David Teira, “What evidence for a cholera vaccine? Jaime Ferrán’s submissions to the prix Bréant”
June 30@14:00-16:00 CEST
Series: Life and Health
Speaker: David Teira (UNED)
Title: “What evidence for a cholera vaccine? Jaime Ferrán’s submissions to the prix Bréant.”
This is joint work with Clara Uzcanga (UNED). The paper is forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences.
This article analyses how the French Academy of Sciences assessed Jaime Ferrán’s cholera vaccine submitted for the Prix Bréant in the 1880s. Ferrán, a Spanish independent physician, discovered the treatment in 1884 and tried it on thousands of patients during the cholera outbreak in Valencia the following year. His evaluation sparked a controversy in Spain and abroad on the vaccine’s efficacy. The Bréant jury did not see any evidence for it in Ferrán’s submission, a decision usually interpreted in terms of French scientific nationalism (or simple chauvinism): an outsider from the scientific periphery could not be awarded the Bréant. Drawing on the archival records of the award, we suggest that Ferrán failed instead to provide data that the Academy could consider unbiased, according to the contemporary standards for data presentation. We will illustrate these standards at work in the assessment of another submission from Spain, by Philipp Hauser, who received the Bréant for the thoroughness of his statistical endeavour.