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Medicine and Health > History of Medicine

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Grady Baby

A Year in the Life of Atlanta's Grady Hospital

Jerry Gentry

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The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs

David S. Barnes

Late in the summer of 1880, a wave of odors emanated from the sewers of Paris. As the stench lingered, outraged residents feared that the foul air would breed an epidemic. Fifteen years later—when the City of Light was in the grips of another Great Stink—the landscape of health and disease had changed dramatically. Parisians held their noses and protested, but this time few feared that the odors would spread disease. Historian David S. Barnes examines the birth of a new microbe-centered science of public health during the 1880s and 1890s, when the germ theory of disease burst into public consciousness. Tracing a series of developments in French science, medicine, politics, and culture, Barnes reveals how the science and practice of public health changed during the heyday of the Bacteriological Revolution. Despite its many innovations, however, the new science of germs did not entirely sweep away the older "sanitarian" view of public health. The longstanding conviction that disease could be traced to filthy people, places, and substances remained strong, even as it was translated into the language of bacteriology. Ultimately, the attitudes of physicians and the French public were shaped by political struggles between republicans and the clergy, by aggressive efforts to educate and "civilize" the peasantry, and by long-term shifts in the public's ability to tolerate the odor of bodily substances. This fascinating study sheds new light on the scientific and social factors that continue to influence the public's lingering uncertainty over how disease can—and cannot—be spread.

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Happy Pills in America

From Miltown to Prozac

David Herzberg

Valium. Paxil. Prozac. Prescribed by the millions each year, these medications have been hailed as wonder drugs and vilified as numbing and addictive crutches. Where did this “blockbuster drug” phenomenon come from? What factors led to the mass acceptance of tranquilizers and antidepressants? And how has their widespread use affected American culture? David Herzberg addresses these questions by tracing the rise of psychiatric medicines, from Miltown in the 1950s to Valium in the 1970s to Prozac in the 1990s. The result is more than a story of doctors and patients. From bare-knuckled marketing campaigns to political activism by feminists and antidrug warriors, the fate of psychopharmacology has been intimately wrapped up in the broader currents of modern American history. Beginning with the emergence of a medical marketplace for psychoactive drugs in the postwar consumer culture, Herzberg traces how “happy pills” became embroiled in Cold War gender battles and the explosive politics of the “war against drugs”—and how feminists brought the two issues together in a dramatic campaign against Valium addiction in the 1970s. A final look at antidepressants shows that even the Prozac phenomenon owed as much to commerce and culture as to scientific wizardry. With a barrage of “ask your doctor about” advertisements competing for attention with shocking news of drug company malfeasance, Happy Pills is an invaluable look at how the commercialization of medicine has transformed American culture since the end of World War II.

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Healing and Society in Medieval England

A Middle English Translation of the Pharmaceutical Writings of Gilbertus Anglicus

Originally composed in Latin by Gilbertus Anglicus (Gilbert the Englishman), his Compendium of Medicine was a primary text of the medical revolution in thirteenth-century Europe. Composed mainly of medicinal recipes, it offered advice on diagnosis, medicinal preparation, and prognosis. In the fifteenth-century it was translated into Middle English to accommodate a widening audience for learning and medical “secrets.”
    Faye Marie Getz provides a critical edition of the Middle English text, with an extensive introduction to the learned, practical, and social components of medieval medicine and a summary of the text in modern English. Getz also draws on both the Latin and Middle English texts to create an extensive glossary of little-known Middle English pharmaceutical and medical vocabulary.

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Healing the African Body

British Medicine in West Africa, 1800–1860

John Rankin

This timely book explores the troubled intertwining of religion, medicine, empire, and race relations in the early nineteenth century. John Rankin analyzes the British use of medicine in West Africa as a tool to usher in a “softer” form of imperialism, considers how British colonial officials, missionaries, and doctors regarded Africans, and explores the impact of race classification on colonial constructs. Rankin goes beyond contemporary medical theory, examining the practice of medicine in colonial Africa as Britons dealt with the challenges of providing health care to their civilian employees, African soldiers, and the increasing numbers of freed slaves in the general population, even while the imperialists themselves were threatened by a lack of British doctors and western medicines. As Rankin writes, “The medical system sought to not only heal Africans but to ‘uplift’ them and make them more amenable to colonial control . . . Colonialism starts in the mind and can be pushed on the other solely through ideological pressure.”

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Health and Humanity

A History of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 1935–1985

Karen Kruse Thomas

Between 1935 and 1985, the nascent public health profession developed scientific evidence and practical know-how to prevent death on an unprecedented scale. Thanks to public health workers, life expectancy rose rapidly as generations grew up free from the scourges of smallpox, typhoid, and syphilis. In Health and Humanity, Karen Kruse Thomas offers a thorough account of the growth of academic public health in the United States through the prism of the oldest and largest independent school of public health in the world. Thomas follows the transformation of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (JHSPH), now known as the Bloomberg School of Public Health, from a small, private institute devoted to doctoral training and tropical disease research into a leading global educator and innovator in fields from biostatistics to mental health to pathobiology.

A provocative, wide-ranging account of how midcentury public health leveraged federal grants and anti-Communist fears to build the powerful institutional networks behind the health programs of the CDC, WHO, and USAID, the book traces how Johns Hopkins helped public health take center stage during the scientific research boom triggered by World War II. It also examines the influence of politics on JHSPH, the school’s transition to federal grant funding, the globalization of public health in response to hot and cold war influences, and the expansion of the school’s teaching program to encompass social science as well as lab science.

Revealing how faculty members urged foreign policy makers to include saving lives in their strategy of "winning hearts and minds," Thomas argues that the growth of chronic disease and the loss of Rockefeller funds moved the JHSPH toward international research funded by the federal government, creating a situation in which it was sometimes easier for the school to improve the health of populations in India and Turkey than on its own doorstep in East Baltimore. Health and Humanity is a comprehensive account of the ways that JHSPH has influenced the practice, pedagogy, and especially our very understanding of public health on both global and local scales.

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Health, Hygiene and Eugenics in Southeastern Europe to 1945

Edited by Christian Promitzer, Sevasti Trubeta, and Marius Turda

This volume is a collection of chapters that deal with issues of health, hygiene and eugenics in Southeastern Europe to 1945, specifically, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Romania. Its major concern is to examine the transfer of medical ideas to society via local, national and international agencies and to show in how far developments in public health, preventive medicine, social hygiene, welfare, gender relations and eugenics followed a regional pattern. This volume provides insights into a region that has to date been marginal to scholarship of the social history of medicine.

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Histories of Health in Southeast Asia

Perspectives on the Long Twentieth Century

Edited by Tim Harper and Sunil S. Amrith

Health patterns in Southeast Asia have changed profoundly over the past century. In that period, epidemic and chronic diseases, environmental transformations, and international health institutions have created new connections within the region and the increased interdependence of Southeast Asia with China and India. In this volume leading scholars provide a new approach to the history of health in Southeast Asia. Framed by a series of synoptic pieces on the "Landscapes of Health" in Southeast Asia in 1914, 1950, and 2014 the essays interweave local, national, and regional perspectives. They range from studies of long-term processes such as changing epidemics, mortality and aging, and environmental history to detailed accounts of particular episodes: the global cholera epidemic and the hajj, the influenza epidemic of 1918, WWII, and natural disasters. The writers also examine state policy on healthcare and the influence of organizations, from NGOs such as the China Medical Board and the Rockefeller Foundation to grassroots organizations in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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History and Health Policy in the United States

Putting the Past Back In

Rosemary A. Stevens

In our rapidly advancing scientific and technological world, many take great pride and comfort in believing that we are on the threshold of new ways of thinking, living, and understanding ourselves. But despite dramatic discoveries that appear in every way to herald the future, legacies still carry great weight. Even in swiftly developing fields such as health and medicine, most systems and policies embody a sequence of earlier ideas and preexisting patterns.

In History and Health Policy in the United States, seventeen leading scholars of history, the history of medicine, bioethics, law, health policy, sociology, and organizational theory make the case for the usefulness of history in evaluating and formulating health policy today. In looking at issues as varied as the consumer economy, risk, and the plight of the uninsured, the contributors uncover the often unstated assumptions that shape the way we think about technology, the role of government, and contemporary medicine. They show how historical perspectives can help policymakers avoid the pitfalls of partisan, outdated, or merely fashionable approaches, as well as how knowledge of previous systems can offer alternatives when policy directions seem unclear.

Together, the essays argue that it is only by knowing where we have been that we can begin to understand health services today or speculate on policies for tomorrow.

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History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning

Nancy G. Siraisi

A major, path-breaking work, History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning is Nancy G. Siraisi's examination into the intersections of medically trained authors and history in the period 1450 to 1650. Rather than studying medicine and history as separate disciplinary traditions, Siraisi calls attention to their mutual interaction in the rapidly changing world of Renaissance erudition. Far from their contributions being a mere footnote in the historical record, medical writers had extensive involvement in the reading, production, and shaping of historical knowledge during this important period. With remarkably detailed scholarship, Siraisi investigates doctors' efforts to explore the legacies handed down to them from ancient medical and anatomical writings and the difficult reconciliations this required between the authority of the ancient world and the discoveries of the modern. She also studies the ways in which sixteenth-century medical authors wrote history, both in their own medical texts and in more general historical works. In the course of her study, Siraisi finds that what allowed medical writers to become so fully engaged in the writing of history was their general humanistic background, their experience of history through the field of medicine's past, and the tools that the writing of history offered to the development of a rapidly evolving profession. Nancy G. Siraisi is one of the preeminent scholars of medieval and Renaissance intellectual history, specializing in medicine and science. Now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a 2008 winner of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she has written numerous books, including Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils (Princeton, 1981), which won the American Association for the History of Medicine William H. Welch Medal; Avicenna in Renaissance Italy (Princeton, 1987); The Clock and the Mirror (Princeton, 1997); and the widely used textbook Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine (Chicago, 1990), which won the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. In 2003 Siraisi received the History of Science Society's George Sarton Medal, in 2004 she received the Paul Oskar Kristellar Award for Lifetime Achievement of the Renaissance Society of America, and in 2005 she was awarded the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction. "A fascinating study of Renaissance physicians as avid readers and enthusiastic writers of all kinds of history: from case narratives and medical biographies to archaeological and environmental histories. In this wide-ranging book, Nancy Siraisi demonstrates the deep links between the medical and the humanistic disciplines in early modern Europe." ---Katharine Park, Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University "This is a salient but little explored aspect of Renaissance humanism, and there is no doubt that Siraisi has succeeded in throwing light onto a vast subject. The scholarship is wide-ranging and profound, and breaks new ground. The choice of examples is fascinating, and it puts Renaissance documents into a new context. This is a major book, well written, richly learned and with further implications for more than students of medical history." ---Vivian Nutton, Professor, The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, and author of From Democedes to Harvey: Studies in the History of Medicine "Siraisi shows the many-dimensioned overlaps and interactions between medicine and 'history' in the early modern period, marking a pioneering effort to survey a neglected discipline. Her book follows the changing usage of the classical term 'history' both as empiricism and as a kind of scholarship in the Renaissance before its more modern analytical and critical applications. It is a marvel of erudition in an area insufficiently studied." ---Donald R. Kelley, Emeritus James Westfall Thompson Professor of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and Executive Editor of Journal of the History of Ideas

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