Science, Technology, and Medicine

At a time when tiny technologies bring the world’s music to individual ears, hold prisoners in their own homes, and transmit instant videos documenting political protest; when local epidemics may quickly become global via the international food market or tourism; when the United States might ensure health care insurance for all citizens; and when energy, clean water, and climate are at the forefront of public policy and household discussions, the importance of science, technology, and medicine to daily life, the economy, politics, social relations, identity, national 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.  Medicine, science, and technology have produced historic changes and at the same time are products of and reveal the battlegrounds, stereotypes, cultures, and power of their own time.  The Department of History offers exciting opportunities to examine current issues, such as nuclear disarmament, health insurance, research ethics, reproductive technologies, and new information media and technologies in an historical light.

s1The core faculty in this field, Professors Lillian HoddesonEvan MelhadoMark Micale, Jimena CanalesRana A Hogarth and Leslie J. Reagan teach courses and direct research in the history of technology, public health, medicine, psychiatry, biology, physics, chemistry, anthropology, media, and science and health policy. Professor Emeritus Richard Burkhardt also remains actively involved in the history of science and graduate education.  Graduate courses treat a variety of topics, among them, Darwin and Evolutionary Thought; Zoos and Animals; Science and Technology During the Cold War; The Information Age; Big Science; Disease and Society; History and Theory of Reproduction; Medicine and Law; Bodies, Sexuality, and Health; Comparative Public Health, and Disabilities History.

Research in the field of science, technology and medicine is innovative and interdisciplinary.  Graduate students find that the field readily lends itself to studying history through a variety of methods and through a transnational framework.  Dissertation topics are wide-ranging; graduate student dissertation topics include 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; 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, and others as well as University fellowships for their research.

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, including African American StudiesArt and DesignEnglishthe Institute for Communications Research (ICR)Gender and Women's Studies Program (GWS)Latina/Latino StudiesLibrary and Information Science, and Urban and Regional Planning.  The history department hosts two exciting interdisciplinary reading groups with graduate students and professors:  one on technology studies, the other on medicine, science and visual media.  History department faculty are central to the new interdisciplinary program in Science, Technology, Information, and Medicine (STIM), which supports graduate training and research at the forefront of work in the social sciences and humanities. STIM's broad network of faculty members and projects provides an intellectual environment and many opportunities for research, course work, and associated activities (e.g. a core STIM seminar, specialized advanced courses, informal discussion groups, and a colloquium series).  Faculty at the University with related historical and health, science, and technology interests, include, Professors Paula Treichler (ICR, research on condoms, AIDS, gender, and media); Karen Flynn (GWS and African American Studies; research on Black nurses and the Diaspora); Daniel Schneider (Urban and Regional Planning, environmental history, ecology, waste water); Lisa Nakamura (ICR, Asian American Studies, race and new media); and Christian Sandvig (ICR, computers, engineering, communication.).

Other campus resources include: the third largest academic library in the United States, which holds government documents, full runs of medical and scientific journals, newspapers, an advertisement collection, and archival records from all parts of the globe; the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH)the National Center for Supercomputing Applicationsthe Beckman Institutethe Medical Scholars Program and Medical Humanities and Social Sciences Program in 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.