Lauren Ruhrold

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of Minnesota

2021 to 2022
Research Fellow

No Standard Definition: The Medical Device Industry and Its Social and Cultural History

The medical device industry is a critical component of our modern health care system. Despite its tremendous significance and size, the industry itself has received little historical attention. What does exist tends to focus on high-status physicians and engineers, corporate giants, and policy makers. This has marginalized other, critical historical actors—including craftsmen, technicians, small-business owners, and reformers. My dissertation recovers these key figures, presenting a more inclusive understanding of who imprinted their identity on the industry and helped shape its growth in the US between the 1890s and 1980s. My project also explores the various cultures and distinct mentalitiés—the different traditions, value systems, patterns of behavior and decision making—that coexisted within this single industry. This proposal seeks to use archival material from Harvard University and the Science History Institute to help advance understanding of the diversity of actors essential to high tech devices and quality care.