Science, Technology, and Medicine

At a time when local epidemics may quickly become global via the international food market or tourism; when the United States has greatly expanded health insurance for its citizens but may end it; when an entire social movement refuses to believe in evolution even as society depends on new scientific discoveries and technological inventions; and when tiny technologies bring the world’s music to individual ears and hold prisoners in their own homes, the importance of science, technology, and medicine to daily life, the economy, politics, social relations, identity, and state and global power is obvious. Although each of these events, problems, and things are often perceived as historic for being new, each has a history of its own. The Department of History offers exciting opportunities to examine current issues, such as racial science, health insurance, research ethics, reproductive technologies, and new information media in an historical light.

s1Professors Jerry Davila, Rana A Hogarth, Mark Micale, and Leslie J. Reagan are the core faculty in the field. They direct graduate research in the histories of public health, medicine, psychiatry, biology, media and film, and science and health policy.  The field has particular strength in thinking about science and medicine through the lenses of gender, race, and sexuality.  Graduate courses treat a variety of topics, among them, Darwin and Evolutionary Thought; Zoos and Animals; Science and Technology During the Cold War; Diseases, Epidemics, and Society; History and Theory of Reproduction; Medicine and Law; Bodies, Sexuality, and Health; Comparative Public Health; Race and Medicine; Bioethics; Disabilities; Medicine and the Movies; and Big Science.

Graduate students find that the field of science, technology and medicine readily lends itself to studying history through a variety of innovative and interdisciplinary methods as well as comparative and transnational frameworks. Dissertation topics are wide-ranging, including leprosy and the American Empire; the environment and health in the U.S. West; birth control clinics; the atomic bomb; venereal disease films; maternal and child health in Tanzania; psychiatry and race; nutrition and hygiene in Germany; children with disabilities; sex education;  and rivers and people in nineteenth-century St. Petersburg. Our students have been awarded prestigious national grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC), the Pew foundation, University and other fellowships for their research. 

Core Faculty

  • Jerry Davila, Brazil, African Diaspora, race and ethnicity, public health, and eugenics.
  • Rana A Hogarth, science, technology, and medicine; Race and Ethnicity; Colonial North America and Early U.S. to 1830.
  • Mark Micale, fin-de-siècle France; cultural studies of science and medicine; psychoanalytic studies; the history of the body.
  • Leslie J. Reagan, women, gender, and sexuality; medicine and public health; reproduction and the body; disability studies; health films and photography; museums and memory; 20th-century U.S.; American-Vietnam War and Agent Orange.

Faculty in Other Departments with related research interests

  • Karen Flynn (Gender and Women’s Studies and African-American Studies) Migration and travel; Black Canada; Diasporic and post-colonial studies; health; nursing; popular culture.
  • Samantha Frost (Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies) feminist theory and biology; the body.
  • Stephanie M. Hilger (Germanic Languages and Literatures, Comparative and World Literature, Gender and Women’s Studies) Intersexuality, gender, the body, European medicine. 
  • Jonathan Inda (Latina/o Studies, Anthropology) race and medicine; pharmaceuticals; science.
  • Natalie Lira (Latina/o Studies) Disability Studies; politics of reproduction; Chicana feminism; histories of racial and reproductive justice; medicine and public health.
  • Ruby Mendenhall (Sociology, African-American Studies, Institute for Genomic Biology) single Black mothers, health.
  • Edna Viruell-Fuentes (Latina/o Studies) public health; health and well-being of Latina/os; racialization and discrimination of immigrants.

Emeriti Faculty

  • Richard Burkhardt (History) history of biology, Parisian zoo. 
  • Lillian Hoddeson (History) physics, Big Science, oral history.
  • Evan Melhado (History, College of Medicine) history of chemistry, health insurance, Europe and U.S.
  • Paula Treichler (Institute for Communications Research, Gender and Women’s Studies, College of Medicine) condoms, AIDS, gender, and media.

Other Campus Projects and Resources

Graduate education in the field is further enriched through shared cross-disciplinary intellectual projects—such as neuroscience and history research on collective memory and a collaborative exhibition of graphic arts from the 1970s women’s health movement—reading groups, and courses with faculty and students in other disciplines.  Those include African American Studies, Art and Design, English, the Institute for Communications Research (ICR), Gender and Women's Studies Program (GWS), Latina/Latino Studies, Library and Information Science, and Urban and Regional Planning. The history department hosts an interdisciplinary reading group with graduate students and professors on medicine, science and visual media. 

The University of Illinois Library is the third largest academic library in the United States; it holds government documents, full runs of medical and scientific journals, newspapers, an advertisement collection, film, and archival records from all parts of the globe.  Other resources include:  the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), the IPRH BioHumanities Initiative, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications; the Beckman Institute; the College of Medicine; and the Advanced Information Technologies Group. Finally, researchers enjoy proximity to state, local, and a variety of medical and science archives in the state capitol and Chicago.