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The Source

The source for the idea of linking crafts with particular occupations can be found at the heart of professional identity. Within the ranks, it is common for practitioners to speak of each other using metaphors from other occupations. The `artist', the `carpenter' and the `jeweller' are among the types that can be found in most walks of life. Think of equivalents for these three types in, say, engineering. Certain paradigmatic occupations symbolise a form of life that has meaning that can readily be applied outside.

You can explore this idea a little further by going to the heart of the professions:

In the foyer of the Royal Melbourne Dental Hospital, you'll find this cabinet of historical dental tools. Look closely and you'll see the same kinds of tools used by jewellers: files, probes, drills, wax casts, etc. Indeed, talk to dentists and you'll find they often use jewellery as a way of describing their work.

In the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, you'll find a cabinet containing a cast of the hand. The inscription reads:

The original in marble was made by Mr Brodie, sculptor, from a cast of Professor Syme's hand. It belonged to Dr John Brown, who gave it to Lord Lister in 1877. Lord Lister presented it to the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University in February 1905.
This is a copy made by permission of the late Professor Emeritus J.C. Brash, sometime professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh.
Clearly, surgeons have the need to make an enduring object out of the history of their profession. Is this way they sometimes speak of the `carpentry side' of surgery?

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Copyright 1995 Kevin Murray

Last modified 4 May 1995