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History of Medicine and the Sciences in Library Special Collections

UCLA History and Social Studies of Medicine Research Forum

The UCLA History and Social Studies of Medicine Research Forum is a series which provides opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and visiting researchers to present recent work or unfinished work-in-progress in an informal, presentation-and-discussion format; more formal, invited papers are presented several times each year. Programs are held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. one Friday each month during the academic year in the Rare Book Room on the fourth floor of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library. Box lunches are provided to all attendees who reserve a seat by noon on the previous Monday; attendees bring their own beverages. Seating is limited and is not guaranteed without a reservation. Reservations can be made by contacting History and Special Collections for the Sciences by phone at 310.825.6940 or by email.

This UCLA History and Social Studies of Medicine Research Forum is made possible by the Program in Social Studies in Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and by History & Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections.

Upcoming Lectures


Seating is limited; reservations are REQUIRED. Please RSVP to reserve if you plan on attending. There may not be seating available for drop-ins on the day of the forum.

Reservations may be made by contacting History & Special Collections for the Sciences (voice: 310.825.6940; email:

This UCLA History of Medicine and Medical Humanities Research Forum (this is the 40th meeting of the series) is made possible by the History & Social Studies of Medicine Program, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and by History & Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections.

Past Lectures

18 May 2017 (Thursday), 12:00 p.m.  
Nic John RamosNic John Ramos (American Studies & Ethnicity, USC, 2017; and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Race in Science & Medicine, Brown University)

Our second program of the Spring quarter, on Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:00 pm, will be a presentation by Nic John Ramos (American Studies & Ethnicity, USC, 2017; and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Race in Science & Medicine, Brown University) on “Poor Influences and Criminal Locations: Los Angeles’ Skid Row, Multicultural Identities and Normal Homosexuality”:  

"This presentation illuminates the role that mental health providers, civil rights and gay rights activists, and urban planners played during Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration in constructing urban spaces to prove the existence of “normal” racial and homosexual subjects.  To construct these spaces in the 1980s, these diverse actors used community mental health theory to depict Los Angeles’ Skid Row as an “open air mental health facility” and West Hollywood and South Los Angeles as spaces for health and productive racial and homosexual citizens."

20 April 2017 (Thursday), 12:00 p.m.  
Steve Beitler

Steve Beitler History of Health Sciences Program, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, UCSF

Our first program of the Spring quarter, on Thursday, 20 April 2017 at 12:00 pm, will be a presentation by Steve Beitler (History of Health Sciences Program, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, UCSF) on "Science, Selfhood and Suffering: Explorations in the History of Pain":

"My talk draws on the histories of how pain has been measured and treated in order to explore changes in clinicians' understandings and patients' experiences of pain in America. After 1945, the clinical perception and status of pain began to shift slowly but decisively. Pain was refashioned from a simple, well-mapped, stimulus-and-response nervous-system event into an experience defined by complexity and subjectivity. Pain became a disease in itself.

"This shift reflected how chronic pain had become a significant clinical challenge in the post-war period. Pain had long been an important symptom or accompaniment of many conditions and procedures. After World War II it became as well a distinct condition characterized by individual diversity; an emphasis on multimodal and complementary treatments; and growth in knowledge of the mechanisms of pain alongside the persistence of clinical quandaries, such as phantom-limb pain and the observed range of individual responses to comparable therapies.  

"Changes in the medical stature of pain had begun much earlier, but it was not until the middle of the 20th century that a new paradigm was articulated, organized, and promoted successfully. One form that this new model took was the "professionalization" of pain, which included the growth of organizations dedicated to the study and treatment of pain as well as the delineation of pain medicine as a recognized sub-specialty within American medicine.

"Within this framework, Science, Selfhood and Suffering describes my research on how an insurgent model of pain was tied to changes in prevailing ideas and practices of personal identity, autonomy, and selfhood in America after 1945. A model of pain as decisively personal meshed well with a consumer-led, growth-oriented economy that often equated personal freedom with consumer choice. My talk integrates research on the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the most widely used pain measurement tool in history; pain and American football; and the work of American designer and inventor Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) to examine how changes in ideas of selfhood and identity both fueled and reflected new patterns of pain management and drug use in post-war America."

Biographical Note:

Steve Beitler received his doctorate in the History of Health Sciences from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) in 2016. He has a Master's in History from San Francisco State and a B.A. in Sociology from Northwestern. His work focuses on the history of how pain has been understood, treated, experienced and represented, and his focus is on the United States after 1945. This Fall [2017] he will be teaching in the UCSF program that he completed last Fall [2016].

10 June 2016 (Friday), 1:30 p.m.  
Marcia MeldrumMarcia L. Meldrum (Adjunct Associate Professor of Medical History, UCLA Professor of Medical History, UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences)

Our first program of the academic year, on Friday, 2 December 2016 at 1:30 pm, will be a presentation by Marcia L. Meldrum (Adjunct Associate Professor of Medical History, UCLA Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences) on “Long Day’s Journey into Disaster: The Imagery and Marketing of Opioids for Pain Relief in 20th-21st Century America”:  

"In the 1990s, pain management specialists championed chronic opioid therapy, following a long era of “opiophobia” and undermedication of pain patients in the U.S.  Exploitation of this medical movement by Purdue Pharma and other drug marketers had led by the late 2000s to an alarming increase in heroin use, overdoses and deaths across the country, transcending class and ethnic lines. This talk explores the history behind this crisis and the cultural and economic forces that have complicated the medical use of opioid analgesics in America."

10 June 2016 (Friday), 1:00 p.m.  
Michael T. RobertsMichael Roberts (Executive Director, Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law)
Our final program of the academic year, on Friday,  10 June 2016, will be a presentation by  Michael T. , JD, LLM Roberts, author of Food Law in the United States, published in 2015 by Cambridge University Press) on "The Pursuit of 'Pure' Food: Reflections on the 100th Anniversary of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906"

 Professor Roberts will discuss the historical framework and legacy of the first federal food and drug act in the United States. Particular attention will be given to the meaning of "pure food," including its moral intentions. Professor Roberts will consider whether these moral aspirations are achieved in modern food and public health regulation.

Lunch salads will be available for attendees who confirm before noon on Monday, June 6th, when we place the catering order. (Please be advised that we require reservations because of university policy; we must submit a list of confirmed attendees when placing our catering order.)

20 May 2016 (Friday) 1:00 pm

 Christine Tarleton (Doctoral Student, Department of History, UCLA)

"Useful Citizenship and the Institutionalization of the Feebleminded in California, 1885-1920":

"A highly debated question in the historiography of psychiatry is whether institutions truly sought to treat their patients with the aim of returning them to the community or, conversely, to train them into lifelong "useful citizens" within the institution.  A look into the records of the Sonoma Home for the Feebleminded at the turn of the twentieth century reveals a philosophical emphasis on creating "useful citizenship," an ideal tying political citizenship to economic self-support.  These records do not indicate that the Sonoma Home saw itself as purely custodial, however, and while the Home become increasingly less than therapeutic due to overcrowding conditions, it is evident that the state sought to rehabilitate those it considered to have asymmetrical feebleminded bodies, often emphasizing early intervention.  In this talk, I will describe the methods by which the Sonoma Home sought to make "useful citizens" out of its inmates within the institution, its efforts at placing these inmates back into the community outside of the institution, and finally, how these findings relate the larger historiographical question as to the purposes of institutionalization."

22 April 2016 (Friday) 1:30 pm

Rachel Elder, PhDRachel Elder, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA Center for Social Medicine and the Humanities)

"Cars and Control: How a Model of Individual Responsibility Replaced Disqualification for Epileptic Drivers in Postwar America"

Location: History and Special Collections for the Sciences, located on the 4th floor of the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, 12-077 Center for Health Sciences

This talk explored how seizure-prone individuals became eligible to drive in the United States after 1949. Whereas the development of anticonvulsant drugs has typically explained the extension of such privileges in the postwar era, this paper will suggest that the licensing of epileptic drivers chiefly articulated new types of responsibility and risk. Placing subjective measures such as the "reliability" of applicants above conventional metrics of pharmaceutical seizure control, medical review boards demonstrated that the primary danger of the epileptic driver was not some intrinsic quality of the seizure-prone body or its potential for accident, but rather its institutional invisibility to doctor and state.

22 January 2016 (Friday) 1:30 p.m.

David Cohen, Ph.D (Marjorie Crump Professor of Social Welfare, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs)
"Self-Experimentation with ECT? An Unknown Chapter in the History of Convulsive Treatments in Psychiatry"

Henri Bersot is considered by historians to be the only known psychiatrist to have self-administered ECT (in Switzerland circa 1942) and his experiment is nearly forgotten. Dr. Cohen has uncovered three more cases of psychiatrists in America and Britain who self-experimented with cardiazol shock or electroshock and published their accounts between 1939 and 1949. In this talk, based on primary and published sources and interviews with children and colleagues, he will describe the psychiatrists, compare their accounts, and address the question of whether their self-administration discernibly affected their personal or professional views. He will also situate their experiments within the history of this contested treatment and within the seemingly unremarkable tradition of self-experimentation in psychiatry.

11 December 2015 (Friday) 1:00 p.m.

Peter Sachs Collopy, Ph.D. (2015-2017 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, University of Southern California)
"Video Therapy: Self-Confrontation and the Development of a Psychiatric Technology"

Description of research:  My research brings together the histories of science, technology, media, and the social movements that have made use of them. My current project concerns how artists, scientists, and political activists used the new technology of videotape in the 1960s and 1970s, interpreting it as both a political weapon and a medium of collective human consciousness. It places this countercultural effervescence in a transnational history in which American occupations at the end of World War II facilitated the transfer of magnetic tape recording first from Germany to California and then to Japan.

6 November 2015 (Friday), 1:00 p.m.

Aimee Medeiros, PhD (Assistant Professor of History and Health Sciences, Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine, UCSF)

"Size Matters: The History of Growth Charts in Pediatrics"

Abstract: In 1977, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted U.S.-originated growth charts in its effort to monitor children’s health. These charts served as standards in growth and development around the world for nearly thirty years even though the data they featured reflected only a small fraction of the global population. This presentation examines the making of these charts, the WHO’s preference for using American growth standards, and its decision to replace them, a process which began in the 1990s.  Consideration of the implications of these charts will also extend to pediatric care.  Today growth charts continue to serve as diagnostic tools in pediatrics.  This presentation will explore the impact these public health instruments have had in therapeutics and speculate on their future in pediatrics as health care moves beyond standardization and into an era of precision medicine. 

9 October 2015 (Friday), 1:00 p.m.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate EpidemicSam Quinones (Journalist, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere; and author, Dream Land)

"Opiates, Pain and Pizza: Why It’s a Great Time to be a Heroin Dealer in America"

Sam Quinones will discuss the research for his recent book (Dream Land: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic) and his findings outlining the paths that lead from prescription analgesics to heroin addiction, and the changing parameters of the illegal drug market in 21st century America.

8 June 2015 (Monday), 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Scottie Buehler (Doctoral student in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, UCLA)

"A Simulacra of Birth: The Pedagogical Instruments and Obstetrical Course of Madame du Coudray"

The final program of the academic year, on Monday, 8 June 2015, at 12:30pm, will be a work-in-progress presentation on “A Simulacra of Birth: The Pedagogical Instruments and Obstetrical Course of Madame du Coudray.” The draft paper incorporates history of midwifery research Ms. Buehler did as the 2015 Barbara Rootenberg Short-term Library Research Fellow in UCLA Library Special Collections.

29 May 2015 (Friday), 12:30-2:00 p.m. (rescheduled from a snow cancellation)

 Richard Noll, Ph.D. (Assoc. Professor of Psychology, DeSales University)

"The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox"

 Abstract: How did new European disease concepts of chronic psychosis enable the emergence of American  psychiatry? Why were they so quickly dissolved by American elites in favor of a discourse of prodromes of  generalized vulnerability? This is a story about how American schizophrenia became something seen but never quite   grasped, a wound without flesh.

24 April 2015 (Friday), 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Paul Brodwin, Ph.D. (Professor of Medical Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

"Gestures of Care: An Ethnography of Mental Health Reform"

Abstract:  This paper explores how to study care – as intervention, affect and relational field – in impersonal bureaucratic institutions. Recent fieldwork in mental health courts (a reform effort aimed at reducing the incarceration of people with severe psychiatric disorders) reveals several dimensions of care in the absence of significant intimacy between courtroom staff members and defendant/patients. The braided logics of psychiatry and criminal justice produce a distinctive form of care, embedded in the foundational inequalities of this setting.

16 April 2015 (Thursday), 4:00-5:30 p.m.

Nicolas Rasmussen, M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., M.P.H. (Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales)

"The Interferon Tournament: Economies of Honor and Credit in Early Biotech"

Abstract: In 1980, as the first biotech firms were floated on the US stock market, what the public most wanted from gene splicing was interferon.  This imagined cancer cure was a holy grail not just to patients, but to scientists vying for the honor of cloning it, and for the managers and investors in biotech firms seeking to monetize the science.  Drawing on archival and courtroom evidence to look behind the scenes and resolve variations between competing accounts, this talk reconstructs the race to clone interferon in several commercial labs, and the extension of this scientific race into legal, regulatory and business domains.  The larger aim is to show how in this earliest period of biotech, when activity converged on biological objects offering both intellectual and commercial reward, there emerged a mingled economy of scientific and financial credit which altered both regimes of value in particular ways.

2 April 2015 (Thursday), 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Kenneth Thompson, M.D. (Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health, University of Pittsburgh)

“Beyond Social Control: Can We Find Any Emancipatory Value in Public Service Community Psychiatry?”

Abstract: The most persistent recent critique of public psychiatric services is that they are state-supported forms of social control that seek to contain human deviance that might otherwise be viewed as liberty of human expression. Neoliberals, meanwhile, charge that public services such as community psychiatry are by their nature of poor quality and unworthy of support. This presentation will suggest that an emancipatory public service psychiatry is being imagined and practiced rudimentarily. Wider scale implementation will require a rethinking not only of psychiatric practice but also the nature of psychiatric challenges, the mind, and the politics of democracy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jenna Loyd, Ph.D. (Asst. Professor of Public Health Policy and Administration, Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee)

“Health Justice and Ending the War at Home”

Abstract:  One of the forgotten gains of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s was that health was redefined as a right and political goal.  Dr. Loyd's book, Health Rights are Civil Rights:  Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978, situates the struggle for health in Los Angeles within the context of both the Vietnam War and domestic conflicts over racial economy and social welfare.  Black freedom, antiwar, welfare rights, and women's movement activists formed alliances to battle oppressive health systems and structural violence, working to define health as a matter of individual and collective self-determination.  This talk reflects on the legacy of those movements for the contemporary movement of Black Lives Matter.

January 8, 2015

Reyna Selya (Postdoctoral Fellow, History and Social Studies of Medicine, UCLA)  

“Organization, Discipline, and Personality: Writing the History of the Society for Neuroscience”

Reyna SelyaAbstract: The UCLA History & Social Studies of Medicine Program recently completed a history of the establishment and early years of the Society for Neuroscience, from the late 1960s through the mid-1990s (visit the site at: In many significant ways, the history of the Society offers a window into the history of modern neuroscience, with implications for science policy in the United States and around the world. Dr. Selya will discuss the challenges and opportunities of writing the history of recent science, with comparisons to the histories of other areas of biomedicine.

June 6, 2014

Rob Schraff (Ph.D. candidate in History)

“Making LSD a psychotomimetic in Los Angeles, 1950s-1960s”

Abstract: From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, LSD was seen as a potential breakthrough in the treatment of alcoholism and other behavioral and emotional disorders; Sidney Cohen and Keith Ditman at UCLA were among the researchers working on these problems. The CIA took a very active interest in LSD at this time and sponsored a number of research programs. By the mid-60s, the hallucinogen had been labeled a “psychotomimetic,” a term that reflected common-sense understandings of experiences taking the drug, as well as the theoretical perception of LSD as a model for the understanding of schizophrenia and the development of antipsychotic drugs for its treatment. Again, UCLA was a major site for the latter project, with Louis Jolyon West and Daniel X. Freedman involved both before and after they came to Los Angeles. In this work-in-progress, Schraff will explore the history of LSD’s labeling as a psychotomimetic, from the metaphorical to the neurophysiological, in the mid to late 20th century.

June 2, 2014

Gil Eyal (Professor of Sociology, Columbia University;  this meeting is additionally co-sponsored by the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Program in the UCLA Department of History)

“Looping Genomes: Diagnostic Expansion and the Genetic Makeup of the Autism Population”

Gil EyalAbstract: This paper builds on Hacking’s framework of “dynamic nominalism” to show how knowledge about genetic etiology can interact with the “kinds of people” delineated by diagnostic categories in ways that “loop” or modify both over time. We use historical materials to show how “geneticization” played a crucial role in binding together autism as a biosocial community, and how evidence of genetic etiology later made an important contribution to the diagnostic expansion of autism. In the second part of the paper, moreover, we present quantitative and qualitative analyses of autism rates over time in conditions that are delineated strictly according to genomic anomalies to demonstrate that changes in diagnostic practice helped to create autism’s enormous genetic heterogeneity. Thus, a looping process, which began with geneticization and involved the social effects of genetics research itself, transformed the genetic makeup of the autism population. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of this finding for genetics researchers, sociologists of science and medicine and stakeholders.

May 16, 2014

Anat Mooreville (PhD candidate in History, UCLA Department of History)

“Blind in Palestine: Stories of Treating Trachoma”

Trachoma was a major public health threat in Palestine during the first half of the twentieth century, with upwards of thirty percent of Jews and seventy percent of Arabs afflicted at the start of the British Mandate. Trachoma was doubly marked: first, as a disease of poor hygiene and primitive culture owing to its particular etiology; and second, as a “blinding scourge of the East,” as a result of regional endemicity. The American-sponsored Hadassah Medical Organization conducted an intensive “war against trachoma” starting in 1918 by employing one or two "traveling oculists" to conduct periodic trachoma checks in school children throughout the Yishuv.  I comb the reports of the “traveling oculist” to elucidate how the campaign operated and was refashioned over a twenty-year period, and how the anti-trachoma campaign served to create a visual and medical distinction between Jews and the Orient in a time of nationalist development. However, fierce physician competition meant that not all eye doctors could find work in the Jewish sector. I analyze multiple first-person narratives of ophthalmologists' experiences in private practice—an arena often missing in the archives—that document how physicians sought out or fell into establishing practices for Arab patients. Looking at both experiences reveals how trachoma was a platform for multiple models of interactions with the East, and how eye doctors also functioned as ethnographers, hygienists, and pioneers.

April 25, 2014

Professor Soraya de Chadarevian (UCLA Department of History, and the Institute for Society and Genetics)

“Heredity under the microscope: human chromosomes, 1950s-1970s”

Soraya de ChadarevianAfter World War II, widespread efforts to establish the effects of radiation in humans provided new incentives to develop methods to study human chromosomes. By the late 1950s, the study of human chromosomes had developed into an active field of research at the intersection of diverse political, medical, and scientific concerns. Professor de Chadarevian's talk will investigate the excitement around the new genetic technology and its widespread use in such diverse fields as cancer research, pediatrics, gender testing, toxicology, criminology, worldwide population studies, and the policy arena. Besides providing insights into a broad range of discussions around human heredity in the middle decades of the 20th century, the study of human chromosomes also points to important continuities to current genomic practices.