Tag Archives: history of medicine

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology- Week 7

Dr Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds): ‘Medicos, bandage wallahs and knights of the Red Cross: masculinity and military medicine in Britain in the era of the First World War.’

Abstract: ‘Histories of gender and medical caregiving in the First World War have tended to be dominated by studies of female nurses on the one hand, and gender implications of war impairments for the male body on the other.  Male medical caregivers are often overlooked as gendered actors in their own right. In this paper, I will examine the medical care provided by the men of the RAMC, whether doctors, stretcher bearers or nursing orderlies, through the prism of their identities as non-combatant servicemen in wartime. In doing so, I will argue that the masculine identities of these men encompassed competing narratives which nuance our understanding of both military and medical identities in the era of the First World War.’

Where: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

When: TODAY, Monday 20th November at 4pm. Tea and coffee will be available from 15:30 in the Common Room.

Seminars convened by Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charters, Dr Roderick Bailey and Dr Atsuko Naono of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford.
More information about this term’s seminars can be found here.

 

Shelf Selection: Medicine and Literature

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts showing off the collections of the Wellcome Unit Library, Oxford!
Being interdisciplinary in nature, the history of medicine offers fascinating opportunities to view disease and medical treatment through time in various social and cultural contexts. This means that although we are a small and specialised library, our books come under a wide range of subject classifications, from BL (religion) to U (military science), via JC (political theory).
In this week’s shelf selection we have a variety of books which link medicine with literary works:

Melancholy, Medicine and Religion in Early Modern England– Mary Ann Lund (PR2224 LUN 2010)

Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) is an essential text for understanding early modern attitudes to illness and cure. Melancholy was understood as an ailment of body and soul, and Burton suggested that the experience of reading about the condition in his book could have curative powers. Mary Ann Lund argues that Burton’s approach has a lot to tell us about the history of reading and the relationships between reader, author and text. Looking at the diverse influences behind Burton’s conviction, including early modern medical writings, she presents Anatomy as a literary, medical and religious text which defies easy categorisation.

Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film
Jennifer Cooke
(PN56.P5 COO 2009)

This study begins with an overview of plague-writing classics by Daniel Defoe and Albert Camus, and goes on to trace the survival of plague as a metaphor and cultural phenomenon beyond the last major European epidemics and into the twentieth century. Cooke finds echoes of the disease across theatre, politics and media, including anti-Semitic rhetoric, Freudian psychoanalysis and George A. Romero’s zombie films. For a collection of earlier historical and literary accounts of plague, see also Rebecca Totaro (ed.) The Plague in Print: Essential Elizabethan Sources 1558-1603 (PR1125.P53 PLA 2010)

Disease and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture– eds. Allan Ingram and Leigh Wetherall Dickson (PR448.D57 DIS 2016)

Originating in a collaborative research project by members of the Universities of Northumbria and Newcastle, this edited volume reads literary works by writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Jonathan Swift alongside medical books, letters and diaries, to consider how people ‘fashioned’, or ascribed meaning to, diseases and causes of death in this period. A distinction can be observed in 18th century society between ‘fashionable’ and ‘unfashionable’ diseases (consumption and ‘ennui’ were generally listed in the former category, plague and smallpox in the latter), and literary works played a role in creating, reinforcing and subverting these categories.

Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in
Victorian Culture
– Martha Stoddard Holmes

(PR468.P35.S76 STO 2004)

Part of the ‘Corporealities: Discourses of Disability’ series, this book links the prevalence of characters with disabilities in Victorian fiction to a wider cultural trend of melodramatic representation of disability, also seen among doctors and educators, and asks what this can tell us about 19th century society and culture. Holmes’s study looks at writers including Charles Dickens (who used the character of Tiny Tim as a sentimentalized shortcut for his message of charity and social justice), Wilkie Collins, Dinah Craik and Charlotte Younge, alongside other sources from the same period including autobiographical accounts from people with disabilities.

Hardy the Physician: Medical Aspects of the Wessex Tradition– Tony Fincham (PR4754 FIN 2008)

Using evidence of Thomas Hardy’s own experience and understanding of physical and mental illness, Tony Fincham reviews the place of illness and medicine in Hardy’s fiction, making particular reference to the GP protagonist of The Woodlanders, Dr Edred Fitzpiers. Fincham highlights Hardy’s ‘consistent and continuous forefronting of psychological factors in the aetiology of illness’ (p.117), concluding that Hardy favoured a holistic, emotionally aware approach to medical matters.


If you would like to consult any of the books held in the Wellcome Unit Library, contact us to arrange your visit!

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology- Week 6, 13th November

Speaker: Andrew Lea (University of Oxford)

Title: Computers, Material Culture, and the Definitions of Disease

Abstract: In 1947, the Cornell psychiatrist Keeve Brodman and a handful of colleagues began developing what would become one of the most widely used health questionnaires of its time—the Cornell Medical Index (CMI). A rigidly standardised form, the CMI presented 195 yes-no questions designed to capture the health status of ‘the total patient’. Over the following decades, Brodman’s project of standardising medical history taking gradually evolved into a project of mathematising and computerising diagnosis: out of the CMI grew the Medical Data Screen (MDS), an early computerised method of deriving diagnoses from patient data. At the same time Brodman was beginning to work towards the MDS, another research team, headed by the television pioneer Vladimir Zworykin, was developing a computer program that they hoped would make accurate diagnoses in the field of hematology. This talk examines these two early efforts to computerise diagnosis as entry points into a larger discussion of the role of computers in shaping our definitions—and ultimately our experience—of disease.

Where?: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

When?: Monday 13th November at 16.00. Tea and coffee will be available from 15.30 in the Common Room.

Seminars convened by Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charter, Dr Roderick Bailey and Dr Atsuko Naono of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford.
More information about this term’s seminars can be found here.

2017 McGovern Lecture- 25th October

The McGovern Lecture is hosted annually at Green Templeton College, and focuses on the history of medicine. You can find a list of past McGovern Lectures here.

Professor Edgar Jones (Instutute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London) will deliver this year’s lecture, Shell Shock: understanding psychological casualties from the battlefield.

The scale of the First World War, and in particular the high numbers of killed and wounded, marked the conflict as one of the most significant events of the twentieth century. For the first time, psychiatric casualties were not only a medical priority but also presented as a military crisis. In a protracted war of attrition, shell shock had the capacity to erode morale and undermine the fighting strength of the major combatants. Some senior physicians, such as Gordon Holmes, interpreted shell shock in the absence of a head wound as little more than cowardice, whilst others, including Charles Myers and Frederick Mott, explored ideas of psychological vulnerability and sought to correlate its symptoms with traumatic exposure. Clinical presentations differed between armies. In the UK, shell shock was commonly represented as a movement disorder, characterised by tremor and unusual gaits. This stood in contrast to Germany and Italy where seizures and dissociated, soldier-like actions were more commonly reported. Possible explanations for these national differences will be discussed in the context of combat medical services.

When: Wednesday 25 October, 18:00-19.30

Where: E P Abraham Lecture Theatre, Green Templeton College, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

This lecture is free for all to attend, but booking is essential: book your seat here!

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology- Week 3, 23rd October

Next week’s Seminar in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology will be delivered by Dr Emese Lafferton, on the topic Sciences and cults of the mind: hypnosis, psychiatry and modernity in Austro-Hungary.

Dr Lafferton is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Central European University, Budapest. Her general research interests include the history of life sciences, psychiatry, eugenics, racial thinking, evolutionary theories, hereditary theories, physical anthropology and ethnography;  the history of science, empire, and nationalism; the history and sociology of medicine.

In this talk Dr Lafferton will first briefly present the outline of her book project which studies the 19th century fascination with the mind and weaves compelling case studies from urban and rural Hungary and Austria into a sustained analysis of the psychiatric and popular cultures of the psyche. This provides the wider context for her research on medical hypnosis between 1880 and 1920 in the Hungarian Kingdom. She is interested in how the boundaries of science were questioned, blurred, negotiated or maintained in the face of potentially subversive explorations into elusive psychic phenomena, and will try to show what new insights the Central-Eastern European material and perspective may offer to our understanding of the emergence of the modern European mind.

When?: Monday 23rd October at 16.00. Tea and coffee will be available from 15.30 in the Common Room.

Where?: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

Seminars convened by Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charter, Dr Roderick Bailey and Dr Atsuko Naono of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford.
More information about this term’s seminars can be found here.

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology: Week 2, 16th October

Speaker: Dr Julie Parle (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Title: The okapi, the wolf, the fellow, and the baboons: thalidomide in South Africa, 1956-1976

Abstract: Responsible for ‘the world’s worst and most poignant medical disaster’, thalidomide was first formally marketed on 1 October 1957, in West Germany. Instructions for its withdrawal were issued 49 months later, by which time thalidomide-containing products had reached more than 50 countries across the world, including 18 in Africa. Following a pharmaceutical okapi, and via fragmentary histories – those of a man called Wolf, a WHO Travelling Fellow, and several hundred baboons – I focus on the surprising presence and uses of thalidomide in South Africa, 1950s to 1970s. I suggest that tales of this teratogen may be of significance for widening global histories of this drug and for those of medical science and the state in South Africa in the twentieth century.

Conveners: Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charters, Dr Roderick Bailey, Dr Atsuko Naono

When: Monday 16th October at 16:00, coffee available from 15:30 in Common Room

Where: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

More information: http://www.wuhmo.ox.ac.uk/termly-seminars

New: e-access to Nursing History Review

We are pleased to announce that electronic Access is now available for the Nursing History Review, the Official Publication of the American Association for the History of Nursing.NHR

Nursing History Review, an annual peer-reviewed publication, is a showcase for the most significant current research on nursing and health care history. Contributors include national and international scholars representing many different disciplinary backgrounds. Regular sections include scholarly articles, reviews of the best books on nursing and health care history, invited commentaries, and abstracts of new doctoral dissertations on nursing and health care history. Historians, researchers, and individuals fascinated with the rich field of nursing will find this an important resource.

Access is via OxLIP+, and is available from Vol. 1 (1993) to the present day.

Wellcome Library and Jisc announce partners in 19th century medical collections digitisation project

The Wellcome Library and Jisc have announced nine partner institutions whose 19th-century book collections will be digitised and added to the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK MHL), an online resource for the study of the history of medicine and related sciences.

Six university libraries have joined the partnership – University College London, University of Leeds, University of Glasgow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Kings College London and University of Bristol – along with the libraries of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

The project’s focus is on books and pamphlets from the 19th century that are on the subject of medicine or its related disciplines. This will include works relating to the medical sciences, consumer health, sport and fitness, as well as different kinds of medical practice, from phrenology to hydrotherapy.

Approximately 15 million pages of printed books and pamphlets from all ten partners will be digitised over a period of two years and will be made freely available to researchers and the public under an open licence. The content will be available on multiple platforms to broaden access, including the Internet Archive, the Wellcome Library and Jisc Historic Books.

This is an exciting development for those interested in the history of medicine, and for the Wellcome Library forms part of a larger ambition to digitise and make freely available over 50 million pages of historical medical books, archives, manuscripts and journals by 2020.

Free Public Lectures on History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care

University of Oxford History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care:
Free Public Lectures

Two lectures, offered as part of a new accredited short course ‘History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care’, are now open to the general public.
Why Brains Can’t Think: Exposing the Mereological Fallacy
Rom Harré, Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College
Monday 16th July, 7pm: Rewley House
For more information visit: www.conted.ox.ac.uk/V560-3

Translating Evidence into Recommendations for Action: the Role of Judgement in the Appraisal of Evidence in Medicine and Public Health.
Professor Mike Kelly. Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence, NICE.
Wednesday 18th July 2012, 7pm: Rewley House
For more information visit: www.conted.ox.ac.uk/B900-78

Full details about the History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care course can be found on our website: www.conted.ox.ac.uk/hpebhc3

“History of science without philosophy of science is blind … philosophy of science without history of science is empty” – Norwood Russell Hanson

Oxford HSMT Postgraduate Conference 2012

History of Science, Medicine and Technology Postgraduate Conference 2012

Date: Friday 8 June 2012
Location: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford
(Please see http://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors_friends/maps_and_directions/index.html for a selection of maps with pdf versions to download and print)

Topics include:

  • Health on Distant Shores: The Impact of American Imperial Politics on Puerto Rican Public Health and Medicine, 1890-1920
  • Living with London’s Mad: Metropolitan Communities and the Insane 1740-1800
  • “O, Brave New World”: The Huxley Brothers and Social Concerns of the Early Twentieth-century Britain
  • History of Algal Derived Biofuels

The full programme and abstracts are available online at http://www.wuhmo.ox.ac.uk/events/index.htm

A buffet lunch is included in the programme so please RSVP to belinda.michaelides@wuhmo.ox.ac.uk if you plan to attend.