Mary E. Fissell, PhD

Mary Fissell, PhDProfessor

Institute for the History of Medicine
The Johns Hopkins University
1900 East Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21205

Phone: 410-614-0286

European health care and popular medicine, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; early modern gender and the body; Co-editor of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

Research interests
I’m working on a book about Aristotle’s Masterpiece, the best-selling early-modern book on sex and reproduction. First published in 1684, it was still for sale, little-altered, in sleazy London sex shops of the 1920s. The book interests me because it has such a long and curious life . Seemingly everything around it changed - gender roles and relations, ideas about the physiology of reproduction, the site of childbirth -- and yet this small book continued to be bought and sold (and maybe even read!). Second, I think that this book is a wonderful way into thinking about vernacular knowledge - the kinds of knowledge about the body and the natural world that ordinary people had and employed. I’d like to develop new ways for us to think about what we used to call “popular” knowledge, ways that make it both more and less than the trickledown of elite thinking.


  Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2004).



   Patients, Power and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol (Cambridge University Press, 1991)



Selected Articles

“When the Birds and the Bees Were Not Enough: Aristotle’s Masterpiece”, Public Domain Review, August 20, 2015, see here.

“Introduction: Women, Health, and Healing in Early Modern Europe”, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82 [special issue on Women, Health, and Healing in Early Modern Europe] (Spring 2008): 1-17.

“The Politics of Reproduction in the English Reformation.” Representations 87 (Summer 2004): 43-81.

“Hairy Women and Naked Truths: Gender and the Politics of Knowledge in Aristotle’s Masterpiece,” William and Mary Quarterly, LX (2003): 43-74.

“Constructing Vermin in Seventeenth-Century England”, History Workshop Journal, no. 47 (1999), 1-29. Reprinted in Identity and Alterity, ed. William Chester Jordan and Angela Creager, Amsterdam: Brepols, 2001.

“Gender and Generation: Representing Reproduction in Early Modern England,” Gender and History 7 (1995), 433-456. Reprinted in The Sexualities in History Reader, ed. Kim Phillips and Barry Reay, London: Routledge, 2001.

“The Doctor-Patient Relationship.” Robert Baker and Lawrence McCullough, eds.,  The Cambridge History of Medical Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2009).

“Women in Healing Spaces”, Laura Lunger Knoppers, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

“The Marketplace of Print” in Mark Jenner and Pat Wallis, eds. Rethinking the Medical Marketplace, London: Palgrave (2007): 108-132.

“Making Meaning from the Margins: The New Cultural History of Medicine.” John Warner and Frank Huisman, eds., Medical History: The Stories and their Meanings, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press (2004).

with Roger Cooter, “Exploring Natural Knowledge: Science and the Popular in the Eighteenth Century”, Cambridge History of Science, vol. 4, Science in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Roy Porter, Cambridge University Press, (2003): 145-179

“Making a Masterpiece: The Aristotle Texts in Vernacular Medical Culture,” in Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine ed. Charles E. Rosenberg, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

SOM 150.705 History of Medicine: Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution (grad)
HSMT 140.105 History of Medicine: Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution

SOM 150.723: Online History of Medicine Survey 1: Classical Antiquity and Early Middle Ages

SOM 150.724: Online History of Medicine Survey 2: Medicine from the Black Death to the Scientific Revolution

SOM 150.738: The Work of Healing

SOM 150.730: Online Methods


Brief CV
Click here for pdf.


Click here for pdf.