Seminar Series, Centre for the History of Medicine, Glasgow

Location: Library Reading Room, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 232-242 St Vincent St, Glasgow G2 5RJ

The Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Glasgow are delighted to announce the next two speakers in their autumn-winter seminar series. Tea, coffee and biscuits are available from 5pm. All welcome!


5.30pm, Tuesday 7th November 2017

Professor Tilli Tansey, Queen Mary University of London ‘Witnessing recent medical history’ 

Tilli Tansey, a research neuroscientist who becam a medical historian, will discuss her work recording voices and stories of recent biomedicine. She will talk about the ‘Witness Seminar’ series in modern medicine, which she instigated, and also other programmes she directs or initiated, including recording projects in learned societies.’

Professor Tansey, OBE, DSc., Hon MD., Hon FRCP., is Emeritus Professor of Medical History & Pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute, Barts & The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, QMUL; and Honorary Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology, UCL.


5.30pm, Tuesday 5th December 2017

Professor Sam Cohn, FRSE, University of Glasgow ‘Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS: Towards a Conclusion’

From an interdisciplinary array of scholars, a consensus has emerged: invariably, epidemics in past times provoked class hatred, blamed the ‘other’, and victimized the victims of epidemic diseases. Such hate and violence, moreover, more readily erupted when diseases were mysterious without known cures or preventive measures. The evidence for these proclamations, however, rests on a handful of examples–the Black Death, the Great Pox at the end of the sixteenth century, cholera riots of the 1830s, and AIDS, centred almost exclusively on the U.S. experience. From investigating thousands of descriptions of epidemics as early as Pharaoh Mempses’s First Dynasty (c. 2920 BCE) to the distrust and violence that erupted with Ebola in 2014-15, I argue that the trajectory and character of epidemic’s socio-psychological consequences across time differed radically from present notions. First, historians post-AIDS have missed a fundamental ingredient of the history of Epidemics. Instead of sparking hate and blame across time, epidemics have shown a remarkable power to unify societies across class, race, ethnicity, and religion and to spur self-sacrifice and compassion. Second, instead of spurring hate and violence when diseases were mysterious, that is, almost without exception before the ‘Laboratory Revolution’ of the late nineteenth century, modernity was the incubator of a disease-hate nexus. Third, even with those diseases that have provoked hate as with smallpox, poliomyelitis, plague, and cholera, blaming ‘the other’ or victimizing diseased victims was rare. Instead, the history of epidemics and their socio-psychological consequences is more varied and richer than historians, social scientists, and public intellectuals have allowed.

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