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Medicine and Health > History of Medicine

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Marrow of Tragedy Cover

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Marrow of Tragedy

The Health Crisis of the American Civil War

Margaret Humphreys

The Civil War was the greatest health disaster the United States has ever experienced, killing more than a million Americans and leaving many others invalided or grieving. Poorly prepared to care for wounded and sick soldiers as the war began, Union and Confederate governments scrambled to provide doctoring and nursing, supplies, and shelter for those felled by warfare or disease. During the war soldiers suffered from measles, dysentery, and pneumonia and needed both preventive and curative food and medicine. Family members—especially women—and governments mounted organized support efforts, while army doctors learned to standardize medical thought and practice. Resources in the north helped return soldiers to battle, while Confederate soldiers suffered hunger and other privations and healed more slowly, when they healed at all. In telling the stories of soldiers, families, physicians, nurses, and administrators, historian Margaret Humphreys concludes that medical science was not as limited at the beginning of the war as has been portrayed. Medicine and public health clearly advanced during the war—and continued to do so after military hostilities ceased.

Mechanism, Experiment, Disease Cover

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Mechanism, Experiment, Disease

Marcello Malpighi and Seventeenth-Century Anatomy

Domenico Bertoloni Meli

A leading early modern anatomist and physician, Marcello Malpighi often compared himself to that period’s other great mind—Galileo. Domenico Bertoloni Meli here explores Malpighi’s work and places it in the context of seventeenth-century intellectual life. Malpighi’s interests were wide and varied. As a professor at the University of Bologna, he confirmed William Harvey’s theory of the circulation of blood; published groundbreaking studies of human organs; made important discoveries about the anatomy of silkworms; and examined the properties of plants. He sought to apply his findings to medical practice. By analyzing Malpighi’s work, the author provides novel perspectives not only on the history of anatomy but also on the histories of science, philosophy, and medicine. Through the lens of Malpighi and his work, Bertoloni Meli investigates a range of important themes, from sense perception to the meaning of Galenism in the seventeenth century. Bertoloni Meli contends that to study science and medicine in the seventeenth century one needs to understand how scholars and ideas crossed disciplinary boundaries. He examines Malpighi’s work within this context, describing how anatomical knowledge was achieved and transmitted and how those processes interacted with the experimental and mechanical philosophies, natural history, and medical practice. Malpighi was central in all of these developments, and his work helped redefine the intellectual horizon of the time. Bertoloni Meli’s critical study of this key figure and the works of his contemporaries—including Borelli, Swammerdam, Redi, and Ruysch—opens a wonderful window onto the scientific and medical worlds of the seventeenth century.

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Medical America in the Nineteenth Century

Readings from the Literature

edited by Gert H. Brieger

Students of the history of medicine and of American history in general will welcome this collection of thirty papers originally published in nineteenth-century medical journals and lay publications. Each highlights a specific problem or medical attitude of the period, and together they present an illuminating panorama of the medical profession and of public health in nineteenth-century America. Many of the problems faced by students, practitioners, and patients of the last century are surprisingly similar to those still being encountered today. Dr. Brieger has selected papers that illustrate the issues and developments in medical education, medical practice, surgery, hospitals, hygiene, and psychiatry. They range from Benjamin Rush's "On the Cause of Death in Diseases That Are Not Incurable," to a paper by Robert F. Weir "On the Antiseptic Treatment of Wounds, and Its Results" and an article by Stephen Smith, "New York the Unclean." The final selection, the Announcement of The Johns Hopkins Medical School, stands as a landmark that foretells the beginning of a new era.

Medical Progress and Social Reality Cover

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Medical Progress and Social Reality

A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Medicine and Literature

An anthology of nineteenth-century literature about medicine and medical issues. Medical Progress and Social Reality is an anthology of nineteenth-century literature on medicine and medical practice. Situated at the interdisciplinary juncture of medicine, history, and literature, it includes mostly fictional but also some nonfictional works by British, French, American, and Russian writers that describe the day-to-day social realities of medicine during a period of momentous change. Issues addressed in these works include the hierarchy in the profession, the use of new instruments such as the stethoscope, the advent of women doctors, the function of the hospital, and the shifting balance of power between physicians and patients. The volume provides an introductory overview of the most important aspects of medical progress in the nineteenth century, and it includes an annotated bibliography of further readings in medical history and literature. Selections from Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Sarah Orne Jewett, Sinclair Lewis, Mikhail Bulgakov, and others are included, as well as the American Medical Association’s 1847 Code of Ethics.

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Medical Transitions in Twentieth-Century China

Edited by Bridie Andrews and Mary Brown Bullock

This volume examines important aspects of China's century-long search to provide appropriate and effective health care for its people. Four subjects—disease and healing, encounters and accommodations, institutions and professions, and people's health—organize discussions across case studies of schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, mental health, and tobacco and health. Among the book’s significant conclusions are the importance of barefoot doctors in disseminating western medicine, the improvements in medical health and services during the long Sino-Japanese war, and the important role of the Chinese consumer. Intended for an audience of health practitioners, historians, and others interested in the history of medicine and health in China, the book is one of three commissioned by the China Medical Board to mark its centennial in 2014.

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Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity

Gary B. Ferngren

Drawing on New Testament studies and recent scholarship on the expansion of the Christian church, Gary B. Ferngren presents a comprehensive historical account of medicine and medical philanthropy in the first five centuries of the Christian era. Ferngren first describes how early Christians understood disease. He examines the relationship of early Christian medicine to the natural and supernatural modes of healing found in the Bible. Despite biblical accounts of demonic possession and miraculous healing, Ferngren argues that early Christians generally accepted naturalistic assumptions about disease and cared for the sick with medical knowledge gleaned from the Greeks and Romans. Ferngren next explores the origins of medical philanthropy in the early Christian church. Rather than viewing illness as punishment for sins, early Christians believed that the sick deserved both medical assistance and compassion. Even as they were being persecuted, Christians cared for the sick both within and outside of their community. Their long experience in medical charity led to the creation of the first hospitals, a singular Christian contribution to health care. Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity is essential reading for scholars and students in the history of medicine and religious studies.

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Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru

Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms

Adam Warren

By the eighteenth century, Peru had witnessed the decline of its silver industry and massive population losses due to smallpox and other diseases. It was widely believed toward the century’s end that economic salvation was contingent upon increasing the labor force and maintaining as many healthy workers as possible. In Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru, Adam Warren presents a groundbreaking study of the primacy placed on medical care to generate population growth during this period. The Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century shaped many of the political, economic, and social interests of Spain and its colonies. In Peru, local elites saw the reforms as an opportunity to positively transform society and its conceptions of medicine and medical institutions. Creole physicians, in particular, took advantage of Bourbon reforms to wrest control of medical treatment away from the Catholic Church, establish their own medical expertise, and create a new, secular medical culture. But during the early years of independence, the doctors lost much of their influence, and medical reforms ground to a halt. As Warren’s study reveals, despite falling in and out of political favor, Bourbon reforms and creole physicians were instrumental to the founding of modern medicine in Peru.

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Medicine and the Saints

Science, Islam, and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956

By Ellen J. Amster

Exploring the colonial encounter between France and Morocco as a process of embodiment, and the Muslim body as the place of resistance to the state, this book provides the first history of medicine, health, disease, and the welfare state in Morocco.

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Moments of Truth in Genetic Medicine

M. Susan Lindee

Genetic research increasingly dominates medical thought and practice in the United States and in many other industrialized nations. Susan Lindee's original study explores the institutions, disciplines, and ideas that initiated the reconfiguration of genetic medicine from a marginal field in the mid-1950s to a core research frontier of biomedicine. Tracing the work of geneticists and other experts in identifying and classifying disease during the explosive period between 1950 and 1980, Lindee identifies the individual "moments of truth" that moved the field away from its eugenic past to the center of a new world view in which nearly all disease is understood to be fundamentally genetic. She suggests that these moments of truth were experienced not only by scientists but also by those who had familial, intimate, emotional knowledge of hereditary disease: patients, family members, and research subjects. Focusing on benchmarks in the field—such as the rise of neonatal testing in the 1960s, genetic studies of unique human populations such as the Amish, the development of human cytogenetics and human behavioral genetics, and the efforts to find genes for rare diseases such as familial dysautonomia—she tracks the emergence of a biomedical consensus that nearly all disease is genetic disease. Using the success of this field as a point of entry, Lindee chronicles both the production of knowledge in biomedicine and changes in the cultural meaning of the body in the late twentieth century. She suggests that scientific knowledge is a community project that is shaped directly by people in many different social and professional locations. The power to experience and report scientific truth may be much more dispersed than it sometimes appears, because people know things about their own bodies, and their knowledge has often been incorporated into the technical infrastructure of genomic medicine. Lindee's pathbreaking study shows the interdependence of technical and social parameters in contemporary biomedicine.

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