Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health

Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health

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by Jeanne E. Abrams
     
 

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Before the advent of modern antibiotics, one’s life could be abruptly shattered by contagion and death, and debility from infectious diseases and epidemics was commonplace for early Americans, regardless of social status. Concerns over health affected the founding fathers and their families as it did slaves, merchants, immigrants, and everyone else in North… See more details below

Overview

Before the advent of modern antibiotics, one’s life could be abruptly shattered by contagion and death, and debility from infectious diseases and epidemics was commonplace for early Americans, regardless of social status. Concerns over health affected the founding fathers and their families as it did slaves, merchants, immigrants, and everyone else in North America. As both victims of illness and national leaders, the Founders occupied a unique position regarding the development of public health in America. Revolutionary Medicine refocuses the study of the lives of George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and James and Dolley Madison away from the usual lens of politics to the unique perspective of sickness, health, and medicine in their era. For the founders, republican ideals fostered a reciprocal connection between individual health and the “health” of the nation. Studying the encounters of these American founders with illness and disease, as well as their viewpoints about good health, not only provides us with a richer and more nuanced insight into their lives, but also opens a window into the practice of medicine in the eighteenth century, which is at once intimate, personal, and first hand. Perhaps most importantly, today’s American public health initiatives have their roots in the work of America’s founders, for they recognized early on that government had compelling reasons to shoulder some new responsibilities with respect to ensuring the health and well-being of its citizenry. The state of medicine and public healthcare today is still a work in progress, but these founders played a significant role in beginning the conversation that shaped the contours of its development. Jeanne E. Abrams is Professor at Penrose Library and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver. She is the author of Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West (NYU Press 2006) and Dr. Charles David Spivak: A Jewish Immigrant and the American Tuberculosis Movement, as well as numerous articles in the fields of American, Jewish and medical history which have appeared in scholarly journals and popular magazines.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
We know their vaunted place in history: Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, and statesman, scientist, and pamphleteer Benjamin Franklin. But it’s their work in public health—and their personal battles with illness—that makes this blend of political and medical history so engaging. Abrams (Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail) notes that there’s nothing new about today’s contentious debate over health care; the nation’s founders were “acutely sensitive to health issues” affecting their families and community. Jefferson—who famously declared, “Science is my passion, politics my duty,” and made no effort to mask his disdain for doctors—used his power to advocate for smallpox vaccinations, while Madison pushed the effort further with one of the earliest health bills, the Vaccine Act of 1813. Martha Washington poignantly noted, “Sickness is to be expected”; indeed, her husband suffered recurring malarial fevers, Franklin had episodes of gout, Jefferson was plagued with dysentery, and Madison had petit mal seizures. Abrams’s meticulous medical portrait of colonial times—and its most powerful leaders—will be fascinating reading for students of both history and medicine. Illus. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"As America enters a new era of health care, this timely volume recalls what medicine was like in the days of the Founding Fathers. Everything from Washington's dental woes to Jefferson's troublesome headaches and Dolley Madison’s tragic encounter with yellow fever finds its way into this lively and well-researched book. In recounting battles over vaccinations, herbal remedies, the efficacy of blood-letting, and the appropriate role for government intervention in medical issues, Revolutionary Medicine reminds us that debates over health care are nothing new in America. They go back to our founders."-Jonathan D. Sarna,author of When General Grant Expelled the Jews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814759363
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
09/13/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
828,595
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Jeanne E. Abrams is Professor at Penrose Library and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver. She is the author of Dr. Charles David Spivak: A Jewish Immigrant and the American Tuberculosis Movement, as well as numerous articles in the fields of American, Jewish and medical history which have appeared in scholarly journals and popular magazines.

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