Transgression in the History of the Biological and Medical Sciences

History 103S.003

Fall 2008
Instructor (text): 
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Thurs 10-12
Crispin Barker has a Ph.D. in the history of science and medicine from Yale and completed his dissertation on the history of the molecular biology of aging and telomere biology. He is presently investigating the influence of radiation genetics and medical physics on early molecular biologists and the role of laboratories at Berkeley, Colorado, Yale, Harvard, and similar institutions in elucidating the synthesis and significance of DNA termini.

How do scientists, physicians, governments, and populations respond to transgressions of the natural order, and how do they define 'natural?' What happens to researchers whose theories and data conflict with the accepted facts, or who by merely daring to engage in serious work threaten the status quo? What difference does it make when the changes affect an entire society, an easily identifiable minority, or a small number of individuals?
This seminar investigates some of the fundamental challenges Western civilization, science, and medicine have faced from the Scientific Revolution to the present, from epidemic disease and fraud in the laboratory to racist health care and the collapse of gender, class, and sexual norms. The readings are a selection of recent texts in the history of science and medicine and primary documents, including ";Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health,"; ";The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco,"; ";The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock's Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control,"; ";Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex,"; and ";The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character.";