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Modern Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Minor Subject 114 in Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS)

Part II students' guide: BBS options

Paper manager: Nick Hopwood

All lectures are held in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science.

Michaelmas Term
Science in the Making of Modern Medicine
Nick Hopwood (5), Salim Al-Gailani (3)
Mon 12noon (weeks 1–4)
Tue 2pm (weeks 1–4)
Reproductive Technologies
Nick Hopwood (4)
Mon 12noon (weeks 5–8)
Medicine, Race and Ethnicity
Mary Brazelton (4)
Tue 2pm (weeks 5–8)
Lent Term
Science and Medicine since World War I
Nick Hopwood (6), Mary Brazelton (2)
Mon 12noon (weeks 1–4)
Tue 2pm (weeks 1–4)

Born in hospitals, vaccinated, X-rayed, using contraceptives, receiving transplants – medicine today sets the parameters of our lives. The paper explores how this came to be by analysing how, and with what consequences, a scientific medicine was made with the modern world. It surveys the creation through the long 19th century of new medical institutions, professionals and practices and explores the 20th-century transformation of medicine into a major object of economic, political and ethical concern.

Aims and learning outcomes

  • to acquaint students with fundamental issues in historical writing on medicine and allied sciences since 1750;
  • to provide students with an understanding of the principal changes that created the medical and biomedical institutions, professionals and practices of the modern world;
  • to introduce students to the processes through which medicine was transformed into a major object of economic, political and ethical concern; and
  • to encourage students to explore major themes in the historical relations between the sciences and modern medicine.


Science in the Making of Modern Medicine
Nick Hopwood, Salim Al-Gailani (8 lectures, Michaelmas Term)

This course surveys the roles of the sciences in making modern medicine from the French Revolution to World War I. We reconstruct the creation in the long 19th century of new institutions, especially hospitals and laboratories; of new professionals working in them as physicians, surgeons, public-health officers, nurses, and especially scientists; and of new ways of understanding and treating disease. We investigate how relations between doctors and individual patients changed, and explore the roles of medicine in managing the health of populations. We discuss how, in the age of empire, a medicine made largely in Western Europe was carried around the world.

Reproductive Technologies
Nick Hopwood (4 lectures, Michaelmas Term)

Since around 1970, 'in vitro fertilization', 'surrogate motherhood' and 'cloning' have made news and become household words. This course goes behind the headlines to take a longer and broader view of reproductive technologies. Drawing on research in history, sociology and anthropology of science, medicine and technology, and in gender studies, it analyses the making of modern cultures of reproduction.

Medicine, Race and Ethnicity
Mary Brazelton (4 lectures, Michaelmas Term)

These lectures investigate scientific and medical constructions of race and ethnicity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Lectures and readings will address the development of racial categories and their implications for biomedical research and therapies, the role of race in medicine under conditions of slavery and colonialism, and the lasting social and political implications of these historical processes.

Science and Medicine since World War I
Nick Hopwood, Mary Brazelton (8 lectures, Lent Term)

Though our medicine had in its essential features been made by World War I, only in the 20th century did it become a major economic and political concern, and a profession with far-reaching authority in the management and even definition of human life. Highlighting the turning points of World War II and the crisis of the early 1970s, this course explores the creation of medical research and the 'biomedical complex', the establishment of Western health-care systems and the politics of global health, and such new technologies as insulin, penicillin and genetic screening. The lectures also introduce the powerful critiques these innovations have provoked.

Preliminary reading

  • Anderson, Warwick, Colonial Pathologies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006)
  • Bernard, Claude, An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865 and later edns)
  • Bynum, W.F., Science and the Practice of Medicine in the 19th Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
  • Comfort, Nathaniel, The Science of Human Perfection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012)
  • Epstein, Steven, Impure Science (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996)
  • Feudtner, Chris, Bittersweet (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003)
  • Fleck, Ludwik, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979)
  • Foucault, Michel, The Birth of the Clinic (1973 and later edns)
  • Henig, Robin Marantz, Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
  • Lawrence, Christopher, Medicine in the Making of Modern Britain (London: Routledge, 1994)
  • Nathoo, Ayesha, Hearts Exposed (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009)
  • Oshinsky, David, Polio: An American Story (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Richardson, Ruth, Death, Dissection and the Destitute (London: Routledge, 1987 or later edns)
  • Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (New York: Crown, 2010)
  • Wailoo, Keith, and Stephen Pemberton, The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)

Resources for Modern Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on Moodle