2011-2012 Dissertation Fellows

The Center has awarded ten fellowships for dissertation research in area archives and libraries, as well as two fellowships for dissertation writing. Dissertation Research Fellows will spend one or two months conducting research in the Philadelphia area. Dissertation Writing Fellows will spend nine months in residence at the Center and will present their work for the Regional Colloquium in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

for 2010-2011

Johns Hopkins University
Making Yellow Fever Atlantic: Relocating America in the Geopolitics of Disease and Disease Knowledge in the Atlantic World, 1700-1830

My dissertation project reexamines the early American yellow fever controversy by situating it in a broader Atlantic context. When successive outbreaks tore through American seaport towns between the 1790s and 1820s, they linked the country to a host of Caribbean and European sites where medical knowledge and ideas about prevention were made, re-made and contested in outbreaks of yellow fever. I argue for the impact of these international exchanges on the ways in which Americans, Europeans and European colonials interpreted the disease, the strategies they adopted to participate in the debates and the meanings they invested in that participation. On a broader level, my research challenges current approaches to medicine and natural knowledge during this period. Taking inspiration from recent developments in American History and Atlantic Studies, it looks beyond and across geopolitical boundaries and American relations to former metropoles. My project uses the yellow fever debates to locate Early national American (and European) medicine in a more “multi-centered” Atlantic World.

University of California, San Diego
Making Museums of Medical History

The Mütter Museum, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the Wellcome Collection, and the Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité have all constructed unique narratives of the history of medicine. My doctoral dissertation involves comparing the history and construction of these museums, as well as rationale behind forms of presentation and the construction and shaping of knowledge within these institutions. Through this comparative examination, I will interrogate the past and present relationships between these museums and public conceptualizations of medicine, medical education, and paradigms in the history of medicine. By conducting research at the Mütter Museum, The Wagner Free Institute of Science, The Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Othmer Library of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, I hope to find historical background for the chapters of my dissertation involving the history of science education, the relationship between pedagogical theory and museum practice, and the history of the Mütter Museum.

Temple University
Gifted Women and Skilled Practitioners: Gender and Healing Authority in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 1740-1830

This dissertation uncovers women healers’ hidden practices and their vital role in the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century mid-Atlantic American healthcare marketplace. Women healers provided free or affordable healthcare for family, neighbors, and impoverished people in their communities. This study challenges the current historiography that marginalizes women healers and narrates their declining medical authority. Instead, it investigates new sources for women’s healing authority, including changing gender roles, female education, access to scientific print media, and the antiauthoritarianism of republicanism and dissenting religious sects. Gender norms sustained male-centered medical hierarchies, but they also legitimized women’s curative practices based upon longstanding female domestic healing traditions. This project analyzes how an emerging transatlantic self-help medical print culture and a consumer-driven healthcare marketplace empowered women healers. Understanding the flexibility of early America’s medical marketplace and the contingencies inherent in the development of its later top-down healthcare system provides important antecedents to the current healthcare crisis.

University of Texas, Austin
Cures from New Worlds: the Portuguese Tropics and the Origins of the Global Drug Trade, 1640-1760

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Portuguese Empire became the site of one of the most important botanical transfers in history: the circulation of drogas (medicinal drugs) such as opium, tobacco, cinchona, ipecac and cacao between the emporia of the Americas, Africa and Asia. The Portuguese and indigenous merchants, missionaries, mariners and cultivators who sustained this drogas trade played a key role in the transformations of medicine, natural philosophy and global commerce in the eighteenth century, yet their history remains unwritten. Drawing upon evidence from mercantile records, scientific correspondence, historical archeology and the personal papers of colonial medical practitioners, botanists and apothecaries, this dissertation reveals how the urgent necessity of staying alive in the disease-ridden frontiers of European expansion forged new links between medicine, environment, local knowledge and global trade – and between Lusophone ‘botanical go-betweens’ and key figures in the history of science and medicine.

University of Pennsylvania, Department of History and Sociology of Science
The Salubrious Sea: Marine Hospitals, the Environment, and the Health of American Urban Children, 1870-1930

Pediatric marine hospitals emerged as a trans-Atlantic phenomenon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These hospitals provided a space in which physicians, nurses, and reformers attempted to rebuild children into strong citizens through interactions with middle-class medical professionals and American nature. They also became environments in which indigent, urban parents negotiated the health-care of their children. This dissertation – the first to take pediatric marine hospitals as its central subject – explores why and how American reformers and physicians came to see the seashore as a salubrious solution to the emerging social problem of the sick, urban child. Pediatric seashore hospitals provide a window into the lived health experiences of indigent urban children and their families, the continuity of enviro-medical therapies and theories, and the contested terrain of authority, identity and citizenship at the turn of the twentieth century.

Johns Hopkins University
'That Great Experiment': Plantation America and the Remaking of British Medicine in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1730-1800.

This dissertation links the formal, printed medical ideas theorizing the relationship between illness, season, and climate that emerged among physicians in the eighteenth century to the experimentation with new treatments for illness that took place on the ground in plantations in South Carolina, Virginia, and the British West Indies. In so doing, this dissertation calls attention to the distinctive spaces of knowledge-making characteristic of Atlantic science and highlights the role of middlemen and women—overseers, attorneys, enslaved midwives, white nurses, skilled slaves, and ship surgeons—in the plantation Americas as important agents in the creation of new therapeutic paradigms.

Harrington Doctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Grave Expectations: Peruvian Skulls, Museums and the Law, 1824-1948

My dissertation excavates the relationship between the excavation and exportation of indigenous Peruvian remains, museums, and the law in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By studying archaeological archives, museum architectures, and legal debates in Peru's congress and press, I explore how Peruvian and U.S. scholars, Indians, and state-backed institutions debated over the right way to open, study and display a pre-Columbian grave. This project begins in 1824, when Peruvian independence first allowed artifacts and remains to flow to U.S. collectors, like Philadelphia’s Samuel G. Morton, and continues through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when U.S. excavations of pre-Columbian graves inspired Peruvian laws criminalizing exportation and claiming legal control of indigenous Peru's material past. Nevertheless, archaeology proved more than an elite, neo-colonial science; through local labor and scholarship, transnationally-minded Peruvians shaped hemispheric law, the study of pre-Columbian history, and museums’ relationship to living Indians.

Harvard University
The Body as Ecosystem: Good Germs and American Bodies, 1940s-1990s

My dissertation examines the scientific, political and cultural lives of “friendly bacteria” living in the human body. These “good germs” are the starting point for a line of developments in biomedicine that have been neglected by historians but which has become scientifically productive. I will argue that there was an ecological turn in microbiology sparked by the elimination of body microbes precipitated by antibiotics that reshaped scientific understandings of the microbe’s relationship to human health and disease. This led to a reframing of the human body as an ecosystem by an enterprising community of microbiologists, concerned environmental activists and hippies, discipline-building clinicians, and safety-conscious government regulators over the course of several decades. My approach will be to follow microbes through lay and expert communities of practice to tell a new story about their scientific and cultural valence which connects laboratory, field work, agriculture, industry and popular culture in unexpected ways.

University of Oxford
Medical Relief, Inc.: United China Relief and the Development of American Medical Activism

In July 1937, smoldering tensions between Chinese and Japanese troops in Northern China erupted into full-scale war. As embers of the conflict drifted beyond China’s borders, many Americans sympathized with China’s plight, despite the prevailing national climate of isolationism. In the following months, a number of grassroots relief organizations formed in solidarity with various facets of the Chinese cause. In 1941, eight such agencies were incorporated under United China Relief, Inc. (UCR). This project will examine UCR and its member agencies, focusing on their work in the medical sphere. Formed out of dual political and humanitarian motivations, their story contributes an important chapter to the history of international medical relief in the twentieth century. Given UCR’s financial success and eventual support by the U.S. government through the National War Fund, the story of UCR’s medical work promises a valuable illustration of the fine line between ‘medical activism’ and ‘medical diplomacy’.

University of Florida
Public Science, Patronage, and Free Education: The Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia 1855 – 1900

This project proposes to be the first scholarly history of the Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia with emphasis on its public programs and free education. The goals of this project are fivefold: 1) to understand the history leading to a unique institution in nineteenth century America that offered free science education to the public, 2) to understand the interplay of science, education, and patronage in the Philadelphia community and the place of the WFIS in that community, 3) to gain a broader understanding of the construction of “public science” as a communicative and constructive process as it developed in Philadelphia 4) to gain a greater appreciation of the role that institutions play as a site of knowledge production, consumption, and communication especially in the American context and 5) to understand the complex history of public science spanning the interval of time from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

for 2010-2011

History Department, UC Irvine
Hormonal Bodies: A Transregional History of Sex and Race in Constitutional Medicine, 1911-1965

Constitutional medicine was an influential medical science of the early twentieth century that attempted to classify individuals into different “human types” according to the presumption that bodily features and psychological traits were correlated to one another and mutually determined by the endocrine system. Although its purpose was to measure an individual’s health and susceptibility to disease, this dissertation argues for the significance of constitutional medicine as a transnational medical taxonomy of race, gender, and sexuality. By analyzing the medical research and professional connections of Gregorio Marañón (Spain), Agustín Cueva Tamariz (Ecuador), and Alejandro Lipschütz (Chile), this dissertation maps the circulation of constitutional medicine in the Iberian-American world and assesses its impact in particular national contexts. The study of socially marginal populations through constitutional medicine, such as inter-sexed individuals and indigenous groups, reveals broader concerns with defining national and regional identities in Spain and Latin America during this period.

University of Minnesota
Solid Foundations: Structuring American Solid State Physics, 1939-1993

A series of debates about how science should be structured determined the institutional makeup, conceptual scope, and collaborative range of solid state physics (SSP) in the United States. The resolution of these structural debates, which rested on the assumption that scientists had latitude to arbitrate what did or did not belong within particular areas of science, tied SSP to the physics community with institutional rather than conceptual bonds, freeing it to be conceptually adventurous. A historical examination of these debates challenges the standard interpretation of twentieth-century physics in terms of increasing conceptual unity. SSP exemplified diversified research; a conceptual unification narrative is incompatible with the historical study of SSP. Solid state’s importance for twentieth century physics further indicates that institutional unification promoted conceptual diversity, pointing toward a more complete characterization of American physics’ development through the second half of the twentieth century.