Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Marilyn Francus

Committee Co-Chair

Laura Engel

Committee Member

Laura Engel

Committee Member

Lara Farina

Committee Member

Catherine Gouge

Committee Member

John Lamb


Medical Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century Britain argues that the cultural mechanisms responsible for creating and sustaining celebrity culture helped create and sustain commercialized medicine in eighteenth-century Britain. I identify the process by which celebrity and medical culture impact one another as a sociocultural phenomenon that I term medical celebrity. The following chapters present four case studies of how medical celebrity impacted the development of the medical profession, the medical market, cultural representations and perceptions of health and illness, and the patient experience. I engage with the work done by scholars in contemporary and early celebrity studies to shed light on the memoirs, biographies, letters, etc. of culturally significant medical practitioners and patients. As such, I create case studies of the famous surgeons John and William Hunter, the infamous pamphlet war following Robert Walpole’s medical treatment and death, two notoriously ill and healthy actresses, Susannah Cibber and Margaret “Peg” Woffington, and Frances Burney’s infamous letter detailing her mastectomy. This dissertation serves as a typology of medical celebrity, thereby identifying the sociocultural phenomenon at the root of the discussions by medical historians and eighteenth-century scholars who examine intersections between celebrity and medical culture. Ultimately, I argue that eighteenth-century medical celebrity was foundational to contemporary British and American culture and we must examine the function of medical celebrity in contemporary culture in order to understand the development of the medical profession, lived experiences of patients and practitioners, cultural representations and perceptions of medicine, and the medical market.