History of Science

Memory and Medicine: A Historian’s Perspective on Commemorating J. Marion Sims

By Susan M. Reverby

Contentious debates over the removal of Confederate general statues that dot our landscape have led the AHA to make an eloquent statement about the meaning of memorialization and history in context. Statues of what in the end are vanquished leaders of a traitorous army, put up during the height of American racism, are a concern, but what about the so-called “Father of American Gynecology” who perfected his techniques on the bodies of enslaved women? The prestigious science magazine Nature waded into this question recently and all hell broke loose. 

September 18, 2017

More Human than Alien: Researching the History of UFOs

By Greg Eghigian

In the summer of 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold described seeing nine bright objects flying in close formation at remarkable speed near Mount Rainier in Washington. Soon after, when pressed by curious journalists, he described the strange aircraft as “flat like a pie pan and somewhat bat-shaped,” noting they “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across water.” Though he never uttered the phrase “flying saucer,” newspapers throughout the world rapidly adopted the term. Just weeks after Arnold’s sighting, a Gallup poll revealed that nine out of ten Americans were already familiar with the moniker.

Humanizing Data: Making Sense of Research on Tuberculosis

By Courtney Howell, Victoria Irvine, Luis Villavicencio, Ian Criman

Introduction
Over the course of the summer, our team of eight undergraduate researchers collected data and engaged in historical research on tuberculosis, or consumption as it was known historically, in the United States. In the first post on our research, “Who Died of Consumption?” we discussed our research process and delved into the connections between race, newspaper reporting, and experiences with the disease as exemplified by tuberculosis victim and famous African American poet Paul Dunbar.

November 14, 2016

Putting Zika in Historical Context

The Zika virus has recently announced its unwelcome arrival in the continental United States. In addition to over 2,500 individuals who have contracted the disease abroad, some 50 locally generated cases have been confirmed in Florida. Many more cases are anticipated. With the public health resources needed to combat the disease running dry, the administration has requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding. As usual, however, Congress is gridlocked, and it’s anybody’s guess whether a funding bill will pass before members leave Washington to campaign for reelection.

September 20, 2016

Who Died of Consumption? Race and Disease in the United States

Rachel Snyder, Sarah Tran, Scott Saunders, and Jay Pandya

In summer 2015, a project team of eight students from Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and George Mason University collaborated to explore the history of tuberculosis in the United States, using newspaper obituaries and census data. The project, funded by 4Va, a consortium of Virginia research universities,will be explored in two AHA Today blog postings that’ll explain this research experience from the perspective of the students. In July, the National History Center and Woodrow Wilson Center co-sponsored a research forum showcasing the students’ research. More information about the project is available at http://ethomasewing.org/tbhistory/.

September 12, 2016