Lives in Medicine

Instructor: Lloyd Ackert
Yale University
History of Science, History of Medicine

Whitney Humanities Center, Rm. 324
53 Wall Street, New Haven

Biography offers an excellent way to study the history of scientific thought in its historical context. We will survey the history of science through the lives of some of its most influential practitioners: e.g. Einstein, Lavoisier, Pavlov, and McClintock. Drawing on a combination of biographical materials—monographs, films, and websites--and “primary” scientific publications, we will explore the development of scientific ideas in their social, cultural, and political context. This course will address the novelty of scientific creativity in a number of medical sciences from the 17th to 20th century.

At the heart of this course are the contributions each physician made to their respective medical fields. Since these phsycians defined themselves by the research they conducted and the ideas they introduced, we will study their work. The ultimate aim for the course will be to understand these developments as part of their lives—e.g. their upbringing, social standing, political commitments, education, and perhaps their "dark sides."

Biographies are written for a broad range of purposes and come in a wide variety of styles. Course participants will read or view psychological, hagiographic, scientific, and feminist treatments of major personalities in the history of science. They will engage this literature and film as a historical exercise in their study of the role of personality in intellectual creativity.

This course will meet twice per week. I will lecture on Tuesday and if needed for the first part of Thursday, devoting the remaining time for discussion of the assigned readings and films.

Grades will be determined as follows:
Class Participation--1/3
Research Projects--1/3
Final Exam--1/3.

Part One
The Eighteenth Century

Section One: Medicine during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment Period

Mon., July 1 Course Introduction -- “Lives in Medicine.”

Biography offers a rich perspective through which to investigate the history of medicine in the complexity of its cultural, social, political, and intellectual aspects.

Wed., July 3 Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) -- An insider. “The Mechanical Body.”

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to Present (London: HarperCollins, 1997), Chapter IX “The New Science,” pp. 201-250 (To the end of the first paragraph).

Reading 2: G. A. Lindeboom, “Hermann Boerhaave” in The Dictionary of Scientific Biography (DSB), ed. Charles Coulston Gillispie, (New York: Scribner, 1970-1990), Vol. 1, pp. 224-228.

Reading 3: Hermann Boerhaave, “Oration on the Usefulness of the Mechanical Method in Medicine,” in Boerhaave’s Orations, translated by E. Kegel-Brinkgreve and A. M. Luyendijk-Elshout (Leiden: E. J. Brill/Leiden University Press, 1983), pp. 90-120

Fri., July 5 Edward Jenner (1749-1823) -- An outsider. “Inoculation and Vaccination.”

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter X “Enlightenment,”, pp. 251 (Beginning at the top of the first full paragraph)-303.

Reading 2: Leonard G. Wilson, “Edward Jenner,” DSB, pp. 95-97.

Reading 3: Edward Jenner, An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccin, a Disease Discovered in Some of the Western Counties of England, Particularly Gloucestershire, and Known by the Name of the Cow Pox (London: Hurst, 1801), 3d ed., pp. iii-42.

Mon., July 8 Martha M. Ballard (1735-1812)-- Midwifery.

Reading 1: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), pp. 3-35, 162-203.

View in class: A Midwife’s Tale, Produced and Written by Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, Directed by Richard P. Rogers, 1997, Running time 88 mins.

Part Two
The Nineteenth Century

Section Two: 1800-1850 -- The Parisian Medical Revolution

Wed., July 10 François Magendie (1783-1855) -- Experimental Physiology, and the Paris Clinic.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XI “Scientific Medicine in the Nineteenth Century,” pp. 304-347.

Reading 2: M. D. Grmek, “François Magendie,” DSB, pp. 6-11.

Reading 3: François Magendie, “Discourse on the Study of Physiology” and “Some General Ideas on the Phenomena Peculiar to Living Bodies,” the appendixes for William Randall Albury, “Experiment and Explanation in the Physiology of Bichat and Magendie,” in Studies in the History of Biology, No. 1, 1977, pp. 97-115.

Fri., July 12 Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) -- The Germ Theory of Disease.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XIV “From Pasteur to Penicillin,” pp. 428-448.

Reading 2: Gerald L. Geison, The Private Science of Louis Pasteur (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 177-256.

*** A list of references for class projects is due. ***

Section Three: 1850-1900 -- Public Medicine and Medical Careers

Mon., July 15 Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890) -- Epidemics and Sanitation Reform.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XIII “Public Medicine,” pp. 397-427.

Reading 2: Edwin Chadwick, Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Classes of Great Britain [1842] (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1962), pp. 163-170; 181-182, 195-201.

**** We will begin to present Projects at the end of each class meeting. ****

Wed. July 17 Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) -- Women Physicians in America.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XII “Nineteenth Century Medical Care,” pp. 348-396.

Reading 2: Elizabeth Blackwell, Medicine as a Profession for Women (New York: Printed for the Trustees of the New York infirmary for women, 1860), pp. 1-24. (Another short reading is to be added later, also.)

Fri., July 19 William H. Welch (1850-1934) -- The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XVII “Medical Research,” pp. 525-560.

Reading 2: Gert H. Brieger, “William Henry Welch,” DSB, pp. 248-250.

Reading 3: William H. Welch, “Sanitation in Relation to the Poor [1892],” in Papers and Addresses (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1920), Vol. 1, pp. 588-598; “The Relation of Sewage Disposal to Public Health [1897],” Idem., pp. 607-614; “Relations of Laboratories to Public Health [1899],” Idem., pp. 615-620; Duties of a Hospital to the Public Health [1915], Idem., pp. 621-628; “Some of the Advantages of the Union of Medical School and University [1888],” Idem., Vol. 3, pp. 26-40.

View in class: Reminiscences of the Early Days of the Medical School, an Oral History of William H. Welch, 1932. Running time 12 mins.

Part Three
The Twentieth Century

Section Four: 1900-1950 -- Systems in Medicine

Mon., July 22 Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) -- “Exploring the Animal Machine.”

Reading 1: [Ghisarev], Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, DSB, pp. 431-436.

Reading 2: Daniel P. Todes, Pavlov’s Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), pp. 190-258.

Wed., July 24 Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945) -- The Body as a Self-Regulating Machine.

Reading 1: Saul Benison, “Walter Bradford Cannon,” DSB, pp. 71-77.

Reading 2: Walter B. Cannon, The Wisdom of the Body (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1932), pp. xiii-xviii; 19-59

Fri., July 26 Vivien T. Thomas (1910- ) -- Cardiology; “Blue Babies.”

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XIX “Surgery,” pp. 597-627.

Reading 2: Vivien T. Thomas, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and his Work with Alfred Blalock: An Autobiography (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), pp. 80-129.

Section Five: 1951-Present -- Twentieth Century Understandings of Disease

Mon., July 29 Robert C. Gallo (1937- ) -- The AIDS Controversy.

Reading 1: Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Chapter XXI “Medicine and the People,” pp. 668-709.

Reading 2: Robert C. Gallo, Virus Hunting: Cancer, AIDS, and the Human Retrovirus: A Story of Scientific Discovery (New York, NY : Basic Books, 1991), pp. 181-216.

Reading 3: John Crewdson, Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, a Massive Cover-up and the Dark Legacy of Robert Gallo (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002), pp. 95-159.

Wed., July 31 Course Review.

Fri., Aug 2 Written, In-Class, Final Examination.