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Medicine and Health > History of Medicine

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Imaging and Imagining the Fetus Cover

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Imaging and Imagining the Fetus

The Development of Obstetric Ultrasound

Malcolm Nicolson and John E. E. Fleming

To its proponents, the ultrasound scanner is a safe, reliable, and indispensable aid to diagnosis. Its detractors, on the other hand, argue that its development and use are driven by the technological enthusiasms of doctors and engineers (and the commercial interests of manufacturers) and not by concern to improve the clinical care of women. In some U.S. states, an ultrasound scan is now required by legislation before a woman can obtain an abortion, adding a new dimension to an already controversial practice. Imaging and Imagining the Fetus engages both the development of a modern medical technology and the concerted critique of that technology. Malcolm Nicolson and John Fleming relate the technical and social history of ultrasound imaging—from early experiments in Glasgow in 1956 through wide deployment in the British hospital system by 1975 to its ubiquitous use in maternity clinics throughout the developed world by the end of the twentieth century. Obstetrician Ian Donald and engineer Tom Brown created ultrasound technology in Glasgow, where their prototypes were based on the industrial flaw detector, an instrument readily available to them in the shipbuilding city. As a physician, Donald supported the use of ultrasound for clinical purposes, and as a devout High Anglican he imbued the images with moral significance. He opposed abortion—decisions about which were increasingly guided by the ultrasound technology he pioneered—and he occasionally used ultrasound images to convince pregnant women not to abort the fetuses they could now see. Imaging and Imagining the Fetus explores why earlier innovators failed where Donald and Brown succeeded. It also shows how ultrasound developed into a "black box" technology whose users can fully appreciate the images they produce but do not, and have no need to, understand the technology, any more than do users of computers. These "images of the fetus may be produced by machines," the authors write, "but they live vividly in the human imagination."

Incurable and Intolerable Cover

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Incurable and Intolerable

Chronic Disease and Slow Death in Nineteenth-Century France

Jason Szabo

Incurable and Intolerable looks at the history of incurable illness from a variety of perspectives, including doctors, patients, families, religious counsel, and policy makers. This compellingly documented history illuminates the physical, emotional, social, and existential consequences of chronic disease and terminal illness, and offers an original look at the world of palliative medicine, politics, religion, and charity. Jason Szabo encourages a more careful scrutiny of today's attitudes, policies, and practices surrounding "imminent death" and its effects on society.

The Inevitable Hour Cover

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The Inevitable Hour

A History of Caring for Dying Patients in America

Emily K. Abel

At the turn of the twentieth century, medicine’s imperative to cure disease increasingly took priority over the demand to relieve pain and suffering at the end of life. Filled with heartbreaking stories, The Inevitable Hour demonstrates that professional attention and resources gradually were diverted from dying patients. Emily K. Abel challenges three myths about health care and dying in America. First, that medicine has always sought authority over death and dying; second, that medicine superseded the role of families and spirituality at the end of life; and finally, that only with the advent of the high-tech hospital did an institutional death become dehumanized. Abel shows that hospitals resisted accepting dying patients and often worked hard to move them elsewhere. Poor, terminally ill patients, for example, were shipped from Bellevue Hospital in open boats across the East River to Blackwell’s Island, where they died in hovels, mostly without medical care. Some terminal patients were not forced to leave, yet long before the advent of feeding tubes and respirators, dying in a hospital was a profoundly dehumanizing experience. With technological advances, passage of the Social Security Act, and enactment of Medicare and Medicaid, almshouses slowly disappeared and conditions for dying patients improved—though, as Abel argues, the prejudices and approaches of the past are still with us. The problems that plagued nineteenth-century almshouses can be found in many nursing homes today, where residents often receive substandard treatment. A frank portrayal of the medical care of dying people past and present, The Inevitable Hour helps to explain why a movement to restore dignity to the dying arose in the early 1970s and why its goals have been so difficult to achieve.

Infectious Ideas Cover

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Infectious Ideas

Contagion in Premodern Islamic and Christian Thought in the Western Mediterranean

Justin K. Stearns

Infectious Ideas is a comparative analysis of how Muslim and Christian scholars explained the transmission of disease in the premodern Mediterranean world. How did religious communities respond to and make sense of epidemic disease? To answer this, historian Justin K. Stearns looks at how Muslim and Christian communities conceived of contagion, focusing especially on the Iberian Peninsula in the aftermath of the Black Death. What Stearns discovers calls into question recent scholarship on Muslim and Christian reactions to the plague and leprosy. Stearns shows that rather than universally reject the concept of contagion, as most scholars have affirmed, Muslim scholars engaged in creative and rational attempts to understand it. He explores how Christian scholars used the metaphor of contagion to define proper and safe interactions with heretics, Jews, and Muslims, and how contagion itself denoted phenomena as distinct as the evil eye and the effects of corrupted air. Stearns argues that at the heart of the work of both Muslims and Christians, although their approaches differed, was a desire to protect the physical and spiritual health of their respective communities. Based on Stearns's analysis of Muslim and Christian legal, theological, historical, and medical texts in Arabic, Medieval Castilian, and Latin, Infectious Ideas is the first book to offer a comparative discussion of concepts of contagion in the premodern Mediterranean world.

Influenza Cover

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Influenza

A Century of Science and Public Health Response

Dehner examines the wide disparity in national and international responses to influenza pandemics, from the Russian flu of 1889 to the swine flu outbreak in 2009. He chronicles the technological and institutional progress made along the way and shows how these developments can shape an effective future policy.

Intensely Human Cover

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Intensely Human

The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War

Margaret Humphreys

Black soldiers in the American Civil War were far more likely to die of disease than were white soldiers. In Intensely Human, historian Margaret Humphreys explores why this uneven mortality occurred and how it was interpreted at the time. In doing so, she uncovers the perspectives of mid-nineteenth-century physicians and others who were eager to implicate the so-called innate inferiority of the black body. In the archival collections of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Humphreys found evidence that the high death rate among black soldiers resulted from malnourishment, inadequate shelter and clothing, inferior medical attention, and assignments to hazardous environments. While some observant physicians of the day attributed the black soldiers' high mortality rate to these circumstances, few medical professionals—on either side of the conflict—were prepared to challenge the "biological evidence" of white superiority. Humphreys shows how, despite sympathetic and responsible physicians' efforts to expose the truth, the stereotype of black biological inferiority prevailed during the war and after.

Investigating the Supernatural Cover

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Investigating the Supernatural

From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metapsychics in France, 1853–1931

Sofie Lachapelle

Séances were wildly popular in France between 1850 and 1930, when members of the general public and scholars alike turned to the wondrous as a means of understanding and explaining the world. Sofie Lachapelle explores how five distinct groups attempted to use and legitimize séances: spiritists, who tried to create a new “science” concerned with the spiritual realm and the afterlife; occultists, who hoped to connect ancient revelations with contemporary science; physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, who developed a pathology of supernatural experiences; psychical researchers, who drew on the unexplained experiences of the public to create a new field of research; and metapsychists, who attempted to develop a new science of yet-to-be understood natural forces. Lachapelle examines the practices, aims, and level of success of these five disciplines, paying special attention to how they interacted with each other and with the world of mainstream science. Their practitioners regarded mystical phenomena worthy of serious study; most devotees—with notable exceptions of physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists—also meant to challenge conventional science in general and French science in particular. Through these stories, Lachapelle illuminates the lively relationship between science and the supernatural in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France and relates why this relationship ultimately led to the marginalization of psychical research and metapsychics. An enlightening and entertaining narrative that includes colorful people like "Allan Kardec"—a pseudonymous former mathematics teacher from Lyon who wrote successful works on the science of the séance and what happened after death—Investigating the Supernatural reveals the rich and vibrant diversity of unorthodox beliefs and practices that existed at the borders of the French scientific culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

John P. McGovern, MD Cover

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John P. McGovern, MD

A Lifetime of Stories

Bryant Boutwell

John P. McGovern held seventeen professorships, received twenty-nine honorary doctorates, and established the nation’s largest privately owned allergy and immunology clinic. He authored 252 professional publications including twenty-six books in the medical sciences and humanities, and served as president or chief elected officer of fifteen professional societies in medicine. In addition, the McGovern Foundation has given millions of dollars to various local and national health charities, and many Houston landmarks bear the McGovern name, including the McGovern Lake and McGovern Children’s Zoo (at Houston’s Hermann Park), the McGovern Health and Science Museum, and the McGovern Campus of the Texas Medical Center.

Bryant Boutwell, a long-time friend and colleague, has captured the influential life of this visionary Texas physician in John P. McGovern, MD: A Lifetime of Stories. In captivating narrative, interlaced with revealing personal and family stories, Boutwell chronicles McGovern’s holistic approach to medicine, which transcended the traditional boundaries of institutional identities and medical specialties. McGovern worked tirelessly to bring together big institutions, the health professions, bold interdisciplinary ideas, and a team approach to healthcare that, though prescient at the time, is recognized today as imperative. This commitment led to his founding role in the American Osler Society, which promotes humanistic and ethical dimensions of the practice of medicine, and his establishment of humanities programs at the UT Health Science Center at Houston and the UT Medical Branch at Galveston.

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Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

Vol. 55 (2000) through current issue

The journal covers a broad range of topics in medical history and related subjects. While recognizing the value of medical history as historically conceptualized, JHMAS also aims to publish papers that cross disciplines, traditional international boundaries, and historiographic categories.

Killer Fat Cover

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Killer Fat

Media, Medicine, and Morals in the American "Obesity Epidemic”

Natalie Boero

In the past decade, obesity has emerged as a major public health concern in the United States and abroad. At the federal, state, and local level, policy makers have begun drafting a range of policies to fight a war against fat, including body-mass index (BMI) report cards, “snack taxes,” and laws to control how fast food companies market to children. As an epidemic, obesity threatens to weaken the health, economy, and might of the most powerful nation in the world. In Killer Fat, Natalie Boero examines how and why obesity emerged as a major public health concern and national obsession in recent years. Using primary sources and in-depth interviews, Boero enters the world of bariatric surgeries, Weight Watchers, and Overeaters Anonymous to show how common expectations of what bodies are supposed to look like help to determine what sorts of interventions and policies are considered urgent in containing this new kind of disease. Boero argues that obesity, like the traditional epidemics of biological contagion and mass death, now incites panic, a doomsday scenario that must be confronted in a struggle for social stability. The “war” on obesity, she concludes, is a form of social control. Killer Fat ultimately offers an alternate framing of the nation’s obesity problem based on the insights of the “Health at Every Size” movement.

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