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How have scientists depicted the origins of their discoveries? In order to understand how new medical hypotheses are perceived by physicians and the public, it is helpful to explore how their authors present such ideas. We often learn first about medical advancements such as vaccination, pasteurization, and penicillin by way of captivating tales, often featuring heroic physicians succeeding despite difficult circumstances. Such accounts can be entertaining and even inspiring, but, as many historians have demonstrated, they do not always present an accurate picture of how medical knowledge has developed over time.1 Reflecting on how pioneering immunologists have described their own history, historians Warwick Anderson, Miles Jackson, and Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz have cautioned against relying on “the memory of the discipline” and working within the historical boundaries imposed by those involved in medical discovery.2 If such accounts are analyzed critically, however, with a view to understanding how and why they were written, historians can uncover more about not only the nuances of medical discovery but about why scientists decide to portray themselves and their findings in particular ways. Superficially, the origins of the Feingold diet are easy to trace. In Why Your Child Is Hyperactive, Feingold dedicated the first three chapters and several subsequent passages to outlining the laboratory and clinical origins of his theory. According to Feingold, his hyperactivity hypothesis had its roots in research he had done into flea bite allergy during the 1950s but was also influenced by Feingold’s early medical experiences as a pediatric resident in Austria and his interpretation of the studies conducted by a number of leading scientists. By depicting how he discovered the link between food additives and Why Your Child Is Hyperactive Chapter 2 15 hyperactivity, Feingold wrote the first history of his diet. His purpose in doing so appears to have been the achievement of three goals: to depict a plausible narrative for his discovery; to show that his theory was the result of years of cumulative, yet often disparate, research; and, finally, to link his findings with those of prominent immunologists and allergists. The achievement of these objectives would presumably help convince both parents and physicians that Feingold’s hypothesis was the product of legitimate scientific investigation and was in accordance with research conducted by other respected scientists. Feingold depicted his story of as one of perseverance, Sherlock Holmes–like induction, and heroism, depicting himself as a diligent, talented, and dedicated clinician and researcher, a physician that parents trusted and colleagues admired. When viewed, however, in the light of other available evidence, including Feingold’s other writings, medical literature about food allergies, and the opinions expressed by Feingold’s colleagues, a different story emerges. Inconsistencies and gaps appear. These do not necessarily cast doubt on his depiction of events; rather, they reveal that the origins of his theory were not only more complicated than Feingold admitted but involved more and different actors. Specifically, Feingold took great pains to associate his work with that done by leading scientists, including many Nobel laureates, rather than his fellow allergists. Notably, he separated his work from that of food allergists who had been linking allergy and behavioral problems since the early twentieth century. Why was this the case? The answer to this question involves exploring the turbulent history of food allergy in the United States and, in particular, engaging with how allergists debated the definition, prevalence, and treatment of the condition.3 In describing the history of his hypothesis, Feingold attempted to negotiate a position between orthodox allergists, who limited the definition of food allergy to those in which an immune response, such as eczema or hives, could be demonstrated , and unorthodox food allergists, who believed that food allergy could result not only in a proven immunological response, demonstrated, for example, by skin-prick tests, but also a wide range of other reactions, including behavioral problems. Although Feingold’s theory fitted those of more unorthodox food allergists, he himself had always been an orthodox allergist and resisted being perceived as an unorthodox food allergist. Feingold also recognized that the theories of food allergists were increasingly vilified by the broader medical community; if his hypothesis was to become authoritative medical knowledge, he needed to associate himself with respectable allergists and immunologists and distance himself from those whose theories were controversial. The potential 16 Chapter 2 benefits but also inherent difficulties involved in striking such a balance help to explain why the Feingold...


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MARC Record
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