Infectious Disease and the Therapeutic Revolution 1930-1970 (Leverhulme Lecture)

‘An Unnatural History: The Re-Emergence of Infectious Disease in the 20th Century’

Presented by Professor Christoph Gradmann, University of Oslo
Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Wellcome Unit for the history of Medicine, Oxford

These lectures will be hosted at
TORCH – The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities
Radcliffe Humanities Seminar Room
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford

Hilary Term 8th Week
Wednesday 12 March
16:00    Infectious Disease and the Therapeutic Revolution 1930-1970
This lecture approaches the history of drug therapies of infectious diseases from 1935-1980 as a succession of three waves of innovation. The first of these is the arrival of sulpha drugs from 1935. These were the product of a mature industry which could quickly mass-produce such substances. Relevant phenomena that we associate with fungal antibiotics such as the standardisation of treatment or the arrival of drug resistant strains were in fact present in application of sulphas already. By contrast, fungal antibiotics which arrived from 1941 came part and parcel with a new type of industry, fermentation on industrial scale. They also paved the way for new – mostly American – players on the drug market. Their prestige as wonder cures rested not just on their efficacy but on their marketing under war time conditions.
The third wave, ensuing around 1960, was one that took anti-infective medicines from disease driven to marketing driven drug development, defining new pathologies and markets such as hospital infections and resistant bacteria.

Trinity Term 3rd Week
Thursday 15 May
17:00    Stalking Microbes: Antibiotic Resistance, Nosocomial Infections and the Demise of the Modern Hospital 1950-1990
Trinity Term 6th Week
Thursday 5 June
17:00    The Return of Natural History: Re-Emerging Infections, the End of Antibiotics and New Public Health

All are welcome.