Comparative perspectives in the history of science, medicine and public health

History 103S.002

Spring 2016
210 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 1000-1200
Somehow, over the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, medicine went from an inexact art to a rational science. Scientific breakthroughs such as anatomical understandings of the body, the development of germ theory, and the creation of antibiotics allowed professional health practitioners to treat illness with increasing precision. The rise of biomedicine was a fraught process, however, as new ideas about scientific medicine came into contact with indigenous health-preserving practices. How did different global social, cultural, and political contexts shape responses to common medical challenges of knowing human bodies and treating diseases? Drawing on cases from Europe, Asia, and the U.S., we will examine the emergence of scientific medicine and public health as key markers of modernity as they intersect with gender, race, empire, urbanization, and medical professionalization, and pharmaceutical drugs. 

We will engage with questions such as: how did medical science based on anatomical understandings of the body influence concepts of gender and race, and vice versa? In what ways did imperial powers use public health measures as tools of governance? How did epidemics of cholera and tuberculosis that emerged under new industrial urban living conditions prompt a public health movement? How did the rise of medicine as a state-regulated profession lead to new challenges for doctors and patients? How have the rise of private companies producing pharmaceutical drugs influenced notions of health as a public or individual matter?