If there is one constant in the life of Iain Bamforth, it has been intellectual curiosity: an interest in crossing borders, confronting unknown cultures and making observations. And sometimes the observations end up as formal comparisons. That is standard practice in the best known field of comparative studies: although its antecedents go back to the German polymath and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), comparative literature took institutional form only in the twentieth century. Its quintessentially interdisciplinary nature means that anybody involved in "comparatism" is required to develop a proficiency in languages, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, history and even theology. In an era of increasing specialisation, it is easy to appreciate that such eclecticism and open-mindedness, especially outside the academy, lays the comparative approach open to the charge of dilettantism (see the essay On the Good Life in Notebook: Recent Articles for a rebuttal).
Iain Bamforth has extended the comparative approach into medicine, an ancient trade or profession which makes increasing use of modern science and technology to deliver its goods. At one extreme is surgery, the techniques of which differ little from country to country; at the other is general practice, which is subject to considerable cultural pressures from the pharmaceutical industry, alternative therapies, and not least patients. Having observed medical practice in several English-speaking countries, France, Germany and in developing countries, Iain Bamforth is ideally placed to comment on this new field of "comparative medicine", and the Notebook section of this website provides an archive of his essays on topics broad (Medicine and Society) and individual (Writing Doctors). Needless to say the author is alive to the ironies inherent in bringing medicine into the sometimes disreputable zone of critical studies; indeed, his upbringing and rootedness in the Scottish sceptical tradition lends his comparatism an unusual, trenchant quality.
Other sections of the website are devoted to Iain Bamforth’s work as a poet (Poems) and essayist (European Studies).
Thanks are due to Peter McCarey, whose home studio allowed the author to record various poems (Sound Clips) on a wintry morning on Lake Geneva in January 2003. All photos (Photo Gallery) are by the author, except for the two sweat-drenched figures about to descend from the summit of Anak Krakatau in May 2007 (© Eric Donelli). Please request permission from the author for extended citations.