Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars – Winter 2018

Written by on December 19, 2017

We’re happy to announce the latest line up of speakers for our Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars in partnership with the Centre for the History of Medicine at Glasgow University. The seminars take place at 5:30pm (tea/coffee from 5pm) in the library reading room at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. If you’d like to attend any of the talks please email to reserve your place.

Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Speaker: Dr. Timothy A. Hickman, Lancaster University
Keeping Secrets: Ethics, Efficacy and Leslie E. Keeley’s 1890s Gold Cure for Addiction
At the time of his death in 1900, Dr. Leslie E. Keeley was among the most famous physicians in the world. His Gold Cure for alcohol and drug habits was administered from tiny Dwight, Illinois, and distributed via a chain of franchised clinics that ringed the globe. Tens of thousands of satisfied patients testified to the cure’s effectiveness. Nonetheless, Keeley is all but forgotten today because he kept the formula for his Gold Cure a secret. Much of the mainstream medical profession in both Britain and the United States labelled him as a quack because of this blatant breach of their ethical codes. This talk will discuss Keeley’s colourful and controversial career, with particular attention to the ethical debates that overshadowed the claims of the many, many patients who believed that the cure worked.


Tuesday, 20th February 2018
Speaker: Dr Rosemary Elliot, University of Glasgow
The meanings of miscarriage in twentieth century Britain
I draw on historical medical literature, self-help guides and personal testimonies from women to explore the ways in which miscarriage has been understood from around 1900 to the 1990s. Three related arguments are advanced.

The first is that there was a linguistic, political and medical conflation between miscarriage (spontaneous pregnancy loss) and abortion (induced termination of pregnancy) for at least the first half of the twentieth century. As politicians and social reformers were focused on ensuring healthy and continuing pregnancies, given high levels of neonatal and infant mortality, and concerns about so-called national efficiency in an increasingly competitive and conflicted international context, pregnant women’s bodies and lives came under increased scrutiny, with a heightened focus on their ‘unborn children’. This emphasis on the ‘unborn child’ predated later twentieth century debates about fetal personhood, but nonetheless made pregnancy (including both induced and spontaneous pregnancy loss) a political and social matter in a way it had not been previously.

This leads into the second argument; namely that women and their reproductive experiences, including miscarriage, occupied a liminal space between public and political discourses and lived (personal) experience. This had repercussions for how miscarriage was perceived, managed and experienced at different points in time.

The final argument is that there was an evident disjuncture between women’s experiences and medical views of miscarriage, which was particularly stark in the early twentieth century, but persists through the period discussed. Nonetheless, changes in the handling and treatment of miscarriage undoubtedly impacted on the experience of it. Conversely, women’s ability to articulate their experiences through support organisations, self-help literature and, to a very limited extent, in the medical press arguably also impacted on medical approaches to and social understandings of miscarriage.


Tuesday, 20th March 2018
Speaker: Dr Sarah Chan, Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Edinburgh
The Genome of Humanity (and other moral myths)
The advent of so-called genome editing technologies has seen a resurgence of interest in the ethical issues associated with genetic modification, particularly human germline genetic modification. Concerns over manipulating the human genome, however, have been prominent in ethical discourse since at least the era of recombinant DNA; and over the genome itself, since the early days of genetics as the science of heredity. In this talk I explore how concepts and arguments from this history are recapitulated, reinterpreted and traduced in the contemporary debate over genome editing. I argue that current discourse often features an elision between moral and biological language that serves to confuse rather than clarify ethical arguments, and suggest approaches that may help to address this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover all our posts and Events

About Us

The College’s heritage collections – including thousands of medical and surgical instruments, rare books, archives, and pictures – span over 6 centuries and are an excellent resource for exploring the history of medicine and the history of the city of Glasgow. Many items from the collections have been digitised and are available to view here. Our digitisation work is ongoing, and we add new items to the site regularly, so keep checking back to discover more.

    Share it