The Invention of “Greek” Medicine

Calloway Scott // Early histories of medicine in the west typically traced the “invention” of scientific medicine to the “Greek miracle” of the Classical era (500-323 BCE). That this historiographic narrative—offering contemporary medical method and thought a compelling and authoritative origin—suited a wide variety of 19th and early 20th century interests is hardly surprising. Positivist histories of…

Databases, Diagnoses, and the History of Psychiatry

David Robertson // Like other fields of medicine, psychiatry depends upon “information infrastructures” in order to distinguish between different mental disorders. Such infrastructures include the personnel, tools, systems, and networks essential for the day-to-day collection of large quantities of data. Attending to the historical transformation of information infrastructures in psychiatry calls on the historian to…

Fevered Bodies in Early Victorian Fiction & Medicine

Diana Rose Newby // On October 24, 1840, the British Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal published a piece by physician James Eager on “continued fevers”: afflictions which he insists “more justly merit the patient investigations of observers” than any other known disease (57). What makes these maladies so difficult to diagnose or treat, according to…

Hints to Mothers, 1837/2018

Livia Arndal Woods // Last month, there was some popular coverage of a recent article in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Nathan S. Fox, MD’s “Dos and Don’ts in Pregnancy: Truths and Myths” frames its intervention as evidence-based common-sense pregnancy-best-practices in an “age of the internet” in which women are “bombarded” with more information…

Carrie’s Story

Sneha Mantri On a spring morning ninety years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision on a landmark trial, Buck v Bell, declaring that forcible sterilization of so-called “degenerates” was not only permissible but imperative. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. justified the decision: “It is…

Review: “Sawbones,” Podcasting, and the History of Medicine

“Sawbones is a show about medical history and nothing the hosts say should be taken as medical advice or opinion. It’s for fun. Can’t you just have fun for an hour and not try to diagnose your mystery boil? We think you’ve earned it. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy a moment of distraction from…that…weird…

Stability and Care: Establishing the Santa Rosa Infirmary in a Frontier City

By 1866, the Civil War had ended in the United States, and the country underwent a turbulent period of transformation known as Reconstruction. Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction set the terms for the South’s readmission into the Union, which included among its requirements: oaths of loyalty, inclusion of African Americans in politics, and the creation of…