George Spratt's Obstetric Tables on Medical Pedagogy and Professionalization
By Celine Ho
The Obstetric Tables created by George Spratt (ca. 1784-1840), also known as "Spratt's Flaps," reintroduced the use of layered paper as a tool in obstetrics after it had fallen out of service since the publication of Vesalius' book in the 16th century. Medical institutions in the UK resisted legitimizing midwifery, reflecting gender norms in professional roles. This raises questions about the motivation behind publishing such an extensive book on the topic.
His focus on obstetrics sheds light on the gender norms on midwifery and the use of graphic prints for men to gain medical authority.
Spratt's use of graphic prints in his Obstetric Tables, aimed at teaching medical students, likely projected to establish his authority and expertise in obstetrics, impacted the development of medical rhetoric. Arguably, the early nineteenth century was the most beneficial time to generate credibility as a medical source, especially women's health, as it faced stigma from others.
This narrative reveals how pedagogy was an avenue to use control for sociocultural leverage. Spratt's efforts were not the sole reason for integrating midwifery into the medical profession. However, obstetrics' history and gendered politics demonstrate a complex interplay where Spratt's actions had a causal, rather than merely coincidental, effect.