Section of the History of Medicine
The Section of the History of Medicine is a freestanding unit in the Yale University School of Medicine engaged with research and teaching in the history of medicine, the life sciences, and public health. In addition to instruction for medical students, including mentoring M.D. theses, the faculty collaborates with colleagues in the History Department, in the Program in the History of Science and Medicine, which offers graduate programs leading to the M.A., Ph.D., and combined M.D./Ph.D. degrees and an undergraduate major in the History of Science/History of Medicine. The Section contributes to the Program's colloquia, and Distinguished Annual Lectures, workshops, and symposia in medical history. Through research and teaching, the faculty seeks to understand medical ideas, practices, and institutions in their broad social and cultural contexts, and to provide intellectual tools to engage with the challenges faced by contemporary medicine.
Joanna Radin awarded 2018 Mahoney Prize from SHOT’s Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society.
Joanna Radin. “Digital Natives: How Medical and Indigenous Histories Matter for Big Data.” Osiris Vol. 32, No. 1 (2017): 43-64.
Prize Citation: In “Digital Natives: How medical and Indigenous histories matter for Big Data,” Joanna Radin argues for critical engagement with “the metabolism of Big Data”. Radin presents the remarkable history of a dataset known as the Pima Indian Diabetes Dataset (PIDD), derived from research conducted with the Akimel O’odham Indigenous community in Arizona. Since the loss of their ability to farm the land, this community has an extremely high rate of diabetes. Reconstructing the circumstances of the dataset’s production and its presence in a Machine Learning repository where it is used in projects far removed from diabetes, Radin draws attention to the way that data is naturalised, and bodies and economic struggle are elided. Significant questions are raised about the ethics and politics of research in an age of Big Data, including the reproduction of patterns of settler colonialism in the research enterprise, and the community’s work to redefine the research encounter. The prize committee were impressed by Radin’s depth of research, quality of analysis, and the contribution to multiple literatures, and commend her for an inspired and inspiring article.
The Mahoney Prize recognizes an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived published in the last three years. The Mahoney Prize commemorates the late Princeton scholar Michael S. Mahoney, whose profound contributions to the history of computing came from his many articles and book chapters. The prize consists of a $500 award and a certificate. The Mahoney Prize is awarded by the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) and is presented during the annual meeting of our parent group, the Society for the History of Technology.
100 Years of Women at Yale School of Medicine Symposium
On June 1, 2018 a symposium, 100 Years of Women at Yale School of Medicine, commemorated the 100-year anniversary of women at YSM. This daylong event, open to all faculty, students, staff, alumni, and clinicians in the community, was sponsored by the Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine (SWIM), the Minority Organization for Retention & Expansion (MORE), and the Dean’s Office. This event celebrated the contributions of women faculty and alumni from the School of Medicine. The symposium featured speakers, including Naomi Rogers, PhD, Professor in the History of Medicine and of History who discussed the challenges for women in their fields, as well as those encountered on the pathway to finding work-life balance.
The New Yorker "LIKES" Joanna Radin's latest book! Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood
See the review here: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/likes/what-were-reading-this-week-career-women-life-on-ice-dark-tower
Joanna Radin wins 2017 John C. Burnham Early Career Award from the Forum for History of Human Science at the History of Science Society Annual Meeting
Citations for the John C. Burnham Early Career Award
2017 Prize: Joanna Radin, “Rescaling Colonial Life From the Indigenous to the Alien: The Late 20th Century Search for Human Biological Futures”
“Rescaling Colonial Life From the Indigenous to the Alien: The Late 20th Century Search for Human Biological Futures,“ follows the reach of colonial practices of natural history through genomics and into outer space. The article centers around biochemist and medical anthropologist Baruch Blumberg, who began his career collecting samples from colonial subjects in Surinam and ended it as head of the NASA program in Astrobiology. Joanna Radin’s history traces entwinements of colonial natural history, space exploration, and inductive methods in postwar biological science.
In the paper, Radin explores how frozen colonial pasts operate in the service of biological futures. Radin’s research refigures sample collection, induction and cryogenic suspension as modes of colonial science. Following histories of frozen blood samples collected from indigenous populations in the postwar period, Radin reveals a cryopolitics of “not letting die,” in the service of some future biological development. Radin’s impressive body of work offers unique contributions to the study of Cold War, postcolonial technoscience, genomics, big data, climate history, extinction, science fiction and speculative futures.
Radin deftly weaves a story of postwar scientific method with an account of postcolonial extraction. She shows how a colonial imaginary of frontier exploration and a scientific imaginary of induction, unite in a calling to “discover the unexpected.” Radin depicts Blumberg as a collector of samples, in the mode of a colonial natural historian, for whom the Pacific – and later the world, perhaps the solar system – figured as a living laboratory. Blumberg won the Nobel Prize for his work on Hepatitis B, derived from blood samples of indigenous peoples of the Pacific. As a NASA administrator, Blumberg harnessed a language of “new frontiers” – exploring where no one had yet gone – and language of basic science – seeking the unknown and following curiosity. He imagined a scientific exploration, the extraction and classification of new material, as capital to be realized in some biological future.
Radin elsewhere theorizes the temporalities involved in cryogenics, the freezing of biological matter. In this article, she explores a spatial scaling, from terrestrial colonial outposts to distant planets, from “indigenous human to the alien in biological science.” In keeping with her sensitivity to space and refoldings of the colonial past, Radin ends with a call, via Ursula Le Guin, to stop, turn one’s gaze from a frontier future and look down at one’s own roots.
2017 Burnham Prize Committee: Dana Simmons (chair) and Katja Guenther