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Medicine and Health > History of Medicine

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Communities of Learned Experience Cover

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Communities of Learned Experience

Epistolary Medicine in the Renaissance

Nancy G. Siraisi

During the Renaissance, collections of letters both satisfied humanist enthusiasm for ancient literary forms and provided the flexibility of a format appropriate to many types of inquiry. The printed collections of medical letters by Giovanni Manardo of Ferrara and other physicians in early sixteenth-century Europe may thus be regarded as products of medical humanism. The letters of mid- and late sixteenth-century Italian and German physicians examined in Communities of Learned Experience by Nancy G. Siraisi also illustrate practices associated with the concepts of the Republic of Letters: open and relatively informal communication among a learned community and a liberal exchange of information and ideas. Additionally, such published medical correspondence may often have served to provide mutual reinforcement of professional reputation. Siraisi uses some of these collections to compare approaches to sharing medical knowledge across broad regions of Europe and within a city, with the goal of illuminating geographic differences as well as diversity within social, urban, courtly, and academic environments of medical learning and practice. The collections she has selected include essays on general medical topics addressed to colleagues or disciples, some advice for individual patients (usually written at the request of the patient’s doctor), and a strong dose of controversy.

Condom Nation Cover

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Condom Nation

The U.S. Government's Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet

Alexandra M. Lord

This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, the expansive records of the Public Health Service, and interviews with former surgeons general to examine these efforts, from early initiatives through the administration of George W. Bush. Giving equal voice to many groups in America—middle class, working class, black, white, urban, rural, Christian and non-Christian, scientist and theologian—Lord explores how federal officials struggled to create sex education programs that balanced cultural and public health concerns. She details how the Public Health Service left an indelible mark on federally and privately funded sex education programs through partnerships and initiatives with community organizations, public schools, foundations, corporations, and religious groups. In the process, Lord explains how tensions among these organizations and local, state, and federal officials often exacerbated existing controversies about sexual behavior. She also discusses why the Public Health Service's promotional tactics sometimes inadvertently fueled public fears about the federal government’s goals in promoting, or not promoting, sex education. This thoroughly documented and compelling history of the U.S. Public Health Service's involvement in sex education provides new insights into one of the most contested subjects in America.

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The Contagious City

The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia

by Simon Finger

By the time William Penn was planning the colony that would come to be called Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia at its heart, Europeans on both sides of the ocean had long experience with the hazards of city life, disease the most terrifying among them. Drawing from those experiences, colonists hoped to create new urban forms that combined the commercial advantages of a seaport with the health benefits of the country. The Contagious City details how early Americans struggled to preserve their collective health against both the strange new perils of the colonial environment and the familiar dangers of the traditional city, through a period of profound transformation in both politics and medicine.

Philadelphia was the paramount example of this reforming tendency. Tracing the city's history from its founding on the banks of the Delaware River in 1682 to the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, Simon Finger emphasizes the importance of public health and population control in decisions made by the city's planners and leaders. He also shows that key figures in the city's history, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, brought their keen interest in science and medicine into the political sphere. Throughout his account, Finger makes clear that medicine and politics were inextricably linked, and that both undergirded the debates over such crucial concerns as the city's location, its urban plan, its immigration policy, and its creation of institutions of public safety. In framing the history of Philadelphia through the imperatives of public health, The Contagious City offers a bold new vision of the urban history of colonial America.

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Covenant of Care

Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in America

Alan M. Kraut and Deborah A Kraut

Where were you born? Were you born at the Beth? Many thousands of Americans-Jewish and non-Jewish-were born at a hospital bearing the Star of David and named Beth Israel, Mount Sinai, or Montefiore. In the United States, health care has been bound closely to the religious impulse. Newark Beth Israel Hospital is a distinguished modern medical institution in New Jersey whose history opens a window on American health care, the immigrant experience, and urban life. Alan M. and Deborah A. Kraut tell the story of this important institution, illuminating the broader history of voluntary nonprofit hospitals created under religious auspices initially to serve poor immigrant communities. Like so many Jewish hospitals in the early half of the twentieth century, "the Beth" cared not only for its own community's poor and underprivileged, a responsibility grounded in the Jewish traditions of tzedakah ("justice") and tikkun olam ("to heal the world"), but for all Newarkers.

Since it first opened its doors in 1902, the Beth has been an engine of social change. Jewish women activists and immigrant physicians founded an institution with a nonsectarian admissions policy and a welcome mat for physicians and nurses seeking opportunity denied them by anti-Semitism elsewhere. Research, too, flourished at the Beth. Here dedicated medical detectives did path-breaking research on the Rh blood factor and pacemaker development. When economic shortfalls and the Great Depression threatened the Beth's existence, philanthropic contributions from prominent Newark Jews such as Louis Bamberger and Felix Fuld, the efforts of women volunteers, and, later, income from well-insured patients saved the institution that had become the pride of the Jewish community.

The Krauts tell the Beth Israel story against the backdrop of twentieth-century medical progress, Newark's tumultuous history, and the broader social and demographic changes altering the landscape of American cities. Today, the United States, in the midst of another great wave of immigration, once again faces the question of how to provide newcomers with culturally sensitive and economically accessible medical care. Covenant of Care will inform and inspire all those working to meet these demands, offering a compelling look at the creative ways that voluntary hospitals navigated similar challenges throughout the twentieth century.



 

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Creating the American Junkie

Addiction Research in the Classic Era of Narcotic Control

Caroline Jean Acker

Heroin was only one drug among many that worried Progressive Era anti-vice reformers, but by the mid-twentieth century, heroin addiction came to symbolize irredeemable deviance. Creating the American Junkie examines how psychiatristsand psychologists produced a construction of opiate addicts as deviants with inherently flawed personalities caught in the grip of a dependency from which few would ever escape. Their portrayal of the tough urban addict helped bolster the federal government's policy of drug prohibition and created a social context that made the life of the American heroin addict, or junkie, more, not less, precarious in the wake of Progressive Era reforms. Weaving together the accounts of addicts and researchers, Acker examines how the construction of addiction in the early twentieth century was strongly influenced by the professional concerns of psychiatrists seeking to increase their medical authority; by the disciplinary ambitions of pharmacologists to build a drug development infrastructure; and by the American Medical Association's campaign to reduce prescriptions of opiates and to absolve physicians in private practice from the necessity of treating difficult addicts as patients. In contrast, early sociological studies of heroin addicts formed a basis for criticizing the criminalization of addiction. By 1940, Acker concludes, a particular configuration of ideas about opiate addiction was firmly in place and remained essentially stable until the enormous demographic changes in drug use of the 1960s and 1970s prompted changes in the understanding of addiction—and in public policy.

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Cultivating Health

Los Angeles Women and Public Health Reform

Jennifer Lisa Koslow

Cultivating Health, an interdisciplinary chronicle, details women's impact on remaking health policy, despite the absence of government support. Jennifer Lisa Koslow explores community nursing, housing reform, milk sanitation, childbirth, and the campaign against venereal disease in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Los Angeles. She demonstrates how women implemented health care reform and civic programs and highlights women's home health care, urban policy-changing accomplishments, and pays tribute to what would become the model for similar service-based systems in other American centers.

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Customers and Patrons of the Mad-Trade

The Management of Lunacy in Eighteenth-Century London

Jonathan Andrews

This book is a lively commentary on the eighteenth-century mad-business, its practitioners, its patients (or "customers"), and its patrons, viewed through the unique lens of the private case book kept by the most famous mad-doctor in Augustan England, Dr. John Monro (1715-1791). Monro's case book, comprising the doctor's jottings on patients he saw in the course of his private practice--patients drawn from a great variety of social strata--offers an extraordinary window into the subterranean world of the mad-trade in eighteenth-century London.

The volume concludes with a complete edition of the case book itself, transcribed in full with editorial annotations by the authors. In the fragmented stories Monro's case book provides, Andrews and Scull find a poignant underworld of human psychological distress, some of it strange and some quite familiar. They place these "cases" in a real world where John Monro and othersuccessful doctors were practicing, not to say inventing, the diagnosis and treatment of madness.

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Death Is That Man Taking Names

Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Culture

Robert A. Burt

The American culture of death changed radically in the 1970s. For terminal illnesses, hidden decisions by physicians were rejected in favor of rational self-control by patients asserting their "right to die"—initially by refusing medical treatment and more recently by physician-assisted suicide. This new claim rested on two seemingly irrefutable propositions: first, that death can be a positive good for individuals whose suffering has become intolerable; and second, that death is an inevitable and therefore morally neutral biological event. Death Is That Man Taking Names suggests, however, that a contrary attitude persists in our culture—that death is inherently evil, not just in practical but also in moral terms. The new ethos of rational self-control cannot refute but can only unsuccessfully try to suppress this contrary attitude. The inevitable failure of this suppressive effort provokes ambivalence and clouds rational judgment in many people's minds and paradoxically leads to inflictions of terrible suffering on terminally ill people.

Judicial reforms in the 1970s of abortion and capital punishment were driven by similarly high valuations of rationality and public decision-making—rejecting physician control over abortion in favor of individual self-control by pregnant women and subjecting unsupervised jury decisions for capital punishment to supposed rationally guided supervision by judges. These reforms also attempt to suppress persistently ambivalent attitudes toward death, and are therefore prone to inflicting unjustified suffering on pregnant women and death-sentenced prisoners.

In this profound and subtle account of psychological and social forces underlying American cultural attitudes toward death, Robert A. Burt maintains that unacknowledged ambivalence is likely to undermine the beneficent goals of post-1970s reforms and harm the very people these changes were intended to help.

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Deliver Me from Pain

Anesthesia and Birth in America

Jacqueline H. Wolf

Despite today's historically low maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States, labor continues to evoke fear among American women. Rather than embrace the natural childbirth methods promoted in the 1970s, most women welcome epidural anesthesia and even Cesarean deliveries. In Deliver Me from Pain, Jacqueline H. Wolf asks how a treatment such as obstetric anesthesia, even when it historically posed serious risk to mothers and newborns, paradoxically came to assuage women's anxiety about birth. Each chapter begins with the story of a birth, dramatically illustrating the unique practices of the era being examined. Deliver Me from Pain covers the development and use of anesthesia from ether and chloroform in the mid-nineteenth century; to amnesiacs, barbiturates, narcotics, opioids, tranquilizers, saddle blocks, spinals, and gas during the mid-twentieth century; to epidural anesthesia today. Labor pain is not merely a physiological response, but a phenomenon that mothers and physicians perceive through a historical, social, and cultural lens. Wolf examines these influences and argues that medical and lay views of labor pain and the concomitant acceptance of obstetric anesthesia have had a ripple effect, creating the conditions for acceptance of other, often unnecessary, and sometimes risky obstetric treatments: forceps, the chemical induction and augmentation of labor, episiotomy, electronic fetal monitoring, and Cesarean section. As American women make decisions about anesthesia today, Deliver Me from Pain offers them insight into how women made this choice in the past and why each generation of mothers has made dramatically different decisions.

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Diagnosis, Therapy, and Evidence

Conundrums in Modern American Medicine

Gerald N. Grob and Allan V. Horwitz

In Diagnosis, Therapy, and Evidence, Gerald N. Grob and Allan V. Horwitz employ historical and contemporary data and case studies, combining into one book a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions. They utilize case studies and examine tonsillectomy, cancer, heart disease, PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and identify differences between rhetoric and reality and the weaknesses in diagnosis and treatment.

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