Sewing the Tapestry of the History of Psychiatry: Anne Harrington’s ‘Mind Fixers’

David Robertson // Over the last twenty years, considerable scholarly contributions have been made to the history of psychiatry. We have had historical analyses of the concept of “nerves” and “neurasthenia,” of “trauma” and the emergence of diagnoses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[1] Historians have examined the material settings of neuropsychiatric efforts to localize brain…

Testing for Normalcy: Amniocentesis and Disability in the 1970s

John A. Carranza // “2. Pregnancy is usually a happy time. Most newborn infants are normal and healthy. Even so, parents often wonder if their unborn child will be normal.”[1] By the late 1970s, reproductive decisions and the sense of normality were challenged and redefined by the women’s liberation and disability rights movement, among others….

Review: “Quackery” highlights history of trusting medical experts

Emilie Egger // Review of Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. Quackery: a Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. 2017. The publishers of Quackery promise “67 shocking but true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly,” and the book’s authors are well-suited to this…

The Heart of a Child

Jennifer & April Edwell // February is American Heart Month. The heart is an amazing organ that deserves our fascination and veneration. There it is tirelessly beating inside your chest right now, running on its own electricity, steady and miraculous.

A New History of Hereditary Science: ‘Genetics in the Madhouse’

David Robertson // Aided by the rapid growth of publicly available big data and internet search engines, genealogy tracing has become a hugely popular activity. But its origins are not so technologically glamorous: as historian Theodore Porter puts it, ‘The science of human heredity arose first amid the moans, stench, and unruly despair of mostly…

The Cult of the Invalid: Early Modern Origins

Sneha Mantri // Between the late seventeenth century and the early nineteenth century, Europe canonized a new scientific order, based on experimentation and logic rather than the empiricism and introspection that characterized traditional analytical thought since Aristotle. This dramatic paradigm shift, now well established as the scientific method, led to astonishing leaps of knowledge. For…

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…