Course Description
Robert Koch, 12 slides of bacteria

In this course we will explore the rapid transformation of health care from the late 19th century to the present day.  In the closing decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, biological sciences, medical education, and clinical care became more closely linked within powerful and modernizing institutions such as the laboratory, the hospital, and the academic medical center. By the 1920s this formation known as “biomedicine” promised increasingly specific diagnoses and ever more powerful tools to combat and prevent disease. Yet by the mid to late 20th century, biomedicine had also attracted a number of critics: from feminist and civil rights activists protesting the paternalistic manner and racial biases of a profession limited largely to white men, to policymakers struggling to reform increasingly costly hospital systems that were ill-suited to addressing an increasing burden of chronic illnesses. We examine the historical connection between the laboratory and the clinic, the transformation of hospitals and medical schools, the shifting epidemiology of disease over the long 20th century, and the role of medicine and healthcare in mediating colonial and postcolonial relations between global North and South. The course focuses upon the organization of health-care, the circulation of medical knowledge, and the experiences of patients, and seeks to relate forms of healing to their social and cultural contexts

Topics Covered
  • The Transformation of Surgery
  • Bacteriology
  • Modernizing the Hospital
  • Educational Reform and Professional Control
  • Eugenics
  • Evidence, Policy, and Practice
  • Risk, Behavior, and Diseases of Civilization
  • Biomedical Networks
  • Genetic Medicine
  • The Globalization of Health


Course Faculty

Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD (Course leader),

Graham Mooney, PhD,

Elizabeth O’Brien, PhD,

Sasha White, PhD,