The History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in Global Perspective

AHA Session 290
Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Murray Hill Suite B (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Session Abstract

Recent scholarship in the history of science, medicine, and technology has sought to transcend traditional western perspectives by taking into account parts of the world left out of traditional accounts. Although much of this new work is excellent, a global perspective has been lost because of the tendency to focus on particular countries or regions of the world. And much of this work has also ignored the connections between science, technology, and medicine. This session will bring together five historians interested in all three subjects and working on research projects that take into account global perspectives. Four major themes are especially important in the global history of science, medicine, and technology. After the chair introduces these perspectives, the participants will address the particular themes that are relevant to their research projects. The first perspective emphasizes research examining the circulation, transmission, and diffusion of ideas and practices between different regions of the world. The second focuses on the relationship between the local and the global. The third involves looking at the globe as a whole. And the fourth perspective seeks to explore ways to break free from standard or western categories when examining the global history of science, medicine, and technology. Each of the five participants will speak for ten minutes; the remaining time will be used for discussion with the audience. The Roundtable Discussion format means that audience participation will be extremely important. Dr. Slotten’s remarks will reflect on the significance of the use of the word “global” in the history of communications, focusing specifically on the development of the first global satellite communication system. His remarks will address the implications for the history of communication technology of looking at the globe as a whole. Dr. Benson will also address this theme but will more explicitly examine the links between technology and science. His remarks will reflect on the history of global biology and different imaginations of the “global environment.” Dr. McCrea’s remarks will examine the relationship not only between the global and the local but also among global, local, and regional perspectives. She will discuss these issues in the context of her research examining the creation of a tropical identity in the history of medicine.  Although imposed by global elites, local residents in Latin America played an important role negotiating and reconfiguring this medicalized identity. Dr. Krysko will discuss the implications of his research examining the history of international broadcasting for the larger theme of the circulation and diffusion of knowledge and practices. Dr. Hanson will discuss the implications for the history of epidemics of looking at the globe as a whole. But also, as an expert on Chinese medicine, she will reflect on ways global historians of medicine, science, and technology might think about breaking free from western categories of analysis. This Roundtable Discussion should appeal to a wide audience, not only specialists in the history of science, the history of technology, and the history of medicine, but also general historians interested especially in global history.

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