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Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America

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Overview

Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio offers a refreshing portrait of an era when the public excitedly anticipated medical progress and research break-throughs. This unique study with 130 archival illustrations drawn from newspaper sketches, caricatures, comic books, Hollywood films, and Life magazine photography analyzes the relationship between mass media images and popular attitudes.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times

"That doctors and their work routinely populate all forms of popular American culture is a historical aberration. Bert Hansen begins his illustrated account of the start of this phenomenon with the observation that until late in the 19th century, no one really wanted any more contact with doctors than was necessary-certainly not in publications intended to entertain. Louis Pasteur changed all that. As scientific triumphs accumulated, the hagiography of the doctor spread throughout the media, from print advertisements to radio spots, from comic books to adoring photo essays in Life magazine."

— Abigail Zuger

Journal of the American Medical Association

"Hansen's narrative reveals a remarkably rich engagement between laboratory work and the curiosity of ordinary citizens. Hansen's work is well grounded in primary research and includes the footnotes expected by medical historians, but at the same time it is completely accessible to any reader interested in the history of medicine. Hansen has done an admirable job of excavating the role played by images of medical progress in the popular media. Picturing Medical Progress From Pasteur to Polio is both a remarkable work of medical history and an entertaining account of medicine's golden age viewed through the eyes of the public."

— Margaret Humphreys

Choice

"At the start, the practice of medicine is accorded little positive public recognition. The medical profession as pictured in magazines and newspapers is ineffective and unprofessional, in collusion with the funeral industry, and tolerant of inferior public health. By the 1950s, with the advent of the Salk polio vaccine, medicine has become a highly esteemed profession grounded in scientific research. Hansen documents the transition, making a detailed examination of images in both print and film media. Recommended."
American Journalism

"For historians of all kinds, whether of science, of medicine, or of media, Hansen's book provides a strong argument for paying more attention to images."
Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"This is the best synthetic treatment we have of the role the mass media played in shaping and promoting the high esteem enjoyed by the American medical profession across the first half of the twentieth century. Hansen has given us both a richly detailed account of the images widely circulated to the public and a convincing analysis of the aggregate image those pictures of medicine fostered."
Hannah Professor, Queen's University - Jacalyn Duffin

"This book is analytical, nostalgic, sensitive, and just plain fun. Bert Hansen's meticulous privileging of the visual is a pathbreaking achievement for methods in the social and cultural history of medicine. You can be rewarded simply by looking at the wonderful pictures, but you will 'see' so much more in his lively prose."
author of five books on medical imagery and a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum - William Helfand

"Even as a long-time collector of medical prints, I learned a lot from this extraordinary book. Hansen's digging has turned up many discoveries, providing a new perspective on graphic art in popular culture. The images are wonderful, but this is not just a picture book; it's a great read as well, filled with remarkable insights.
"
Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manch - Elizabeth Toon

"Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio is an authoritative, well-written account that will be a significant contribution not only to the history of American medicine, but to the history of American popular culture."
professor of history, American University - Alan M. Kraut

"This skillfully written volume reminds us how books such as Microbe Hunters, films such as Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet, and even some of the old comic books and Life magazines in our basements once celebrated medical history and inspired the young to study science and medicine. Bert Hansen's rich exploration of the intersection of popular culture and the history of medicine opens wide a window on a time between the 1880s and the 1950s when physicians, nurses, and scientists were highly regarded warriors against disease and human suffering. It is a major contribution to our understanding of how medicine's cultural authority was established and expanded in the United States, vital to scholars and valuable to those who hope to spark a renewed enthusiasm among Americans for the study of science and medicine."
New York Times - Abigail Zuger

"That doctors and their work routinely populate all forms of popular American culture is a historical aberration. Bert Hansen begins his illustrated account of the start of this phenomenon with the observation that until late in the 19th century, no one really wanted any more contact with doctors than was necessary-certainly not in publications intended to entertain. Louis Pasteur changed all that. As scientific triumphs accumulated, the hagiography of the doctor spread throughout the media, from print advertisements to radio spots, from comic books to adoring photo essays in Life magazine."
Journal of the American Medical Association - Margaret Humphreys

"Hansen's narrative reveals a remarkably rich engagement between laboratory work and the curiosity of ordinary citizens. Hansen's work is well grounded in primary research and includes the footnotes expected by medical historians, but at the same time it is completely accessible to any reader interested in the history of medicine. Hansen has done an admirable job of excavating the role played by images of medical progress in the popular media. Picturing Medical Progress From Pasteur to Polio is both a remarkable work of medical history and an entertaining account of medicine's golden age viewed through the eyes of the public."
Chemical Heritage Magazine

"Hansen presents material previously unexplored by medical historians, while maintaining a clear narrative style."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813545769
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Bert Hansen, a professor of history at Baruch College, has published a book on medieval science and many articles on the history of modern medicine and public health.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Part I The Setting

1 Medicine in the Public Eye, Then and Now 3

2 Before There Were Medical Breakthroughs: Diseases and Doctors in the Pictorial Press, 1860-1890 11

Part II A New Regime of Medical Progress

3 How Medicine Became Hot News, 1885 45

4 Popular Enthusiasm for Laboratory Discoveries, 1885-1895 75

5 Creating an Institutional Base for Medical Research, 1890-1920 101

Part III Medical History For the Public, 1925-1950

6 The Mass Media Make Medical History Popular 125

7 "And Now, a Word from Our Sponsor": Making Medical History Commercial 154

8 Popular Medical History in Children's Comic Books of the 1940s 171

Part IV The Modern Imagery of Medical Progress

9 Life Looks at Medicine: Magazine Photography and the American Public 207

10 The Meaning of an Era 256

Appendix: Radio Dramas of Medical History in Cavalcade of America 269

Notes 271

Index 329

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2009

    Amazing images which make history fun (you must look a the pictures)

    There is nothing as important as the visual image to capture the true spirit of these times in history. For those of us bombarded with images, from tv and the internet, this book gives a powerful insight into how images were first used to infuence understanding of medical progress.

    A must read !!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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