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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Gender in science, technology and medicine

CHSTM 019-monobrow-electrolysis-(2)
Gender expectations medicalised?  Use of the 'electric needle' to remove hair from eyebrows that meet in the middle.  From Augusta Prescott, 'The Woman Beautiful: a treatise on how to keep young' in Virtue's Household Physician, a twentieth century medica, vol 4, Boston, Massachusetts: Physicians' Publishing Co 1905

How have science, technology and medicine shaped our ideas about gender, and how have our ideas about gender shaped science, technology and medicine? Why have some kinds of scientific and medical work been thought of as 'manly', while other practices are considered 'women's work'? How have science, technology and medicine confirmed and challenged our understandings of ourselves as gendered? In the past thirty years, scholars asking such questions have shown how paying attention to gender can augment our understanding of the history of science, technology and medicine.

Several CHSTM staff research and teach on the historical interactions of gender conventions and practices with science, technology and medicine. Michael Brown's work considers how the rhetoric and self-representations of the Victorian medical profession were inflected by the values of a militarised, imperial masculinity. Aya Homei, our affiliated colleague in Japanese Studies, has written on the history of Japanese midwives in the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1925) periods; her current work focuses on Japanese family planning in the context of international health during the 1970s and 1980s.

Emma Jones is researching the emergence of premenstrual syndrome, looking especially at the role that gender and medical expertise have played in constructing the disease in Britain. Vicky Long has explored how concepts of gender, health and employment interacted, in both professional and industrial spheres, in the early years of the twentieth century. Elizabeth Toon has shown how advice literature connects health practices to ideals of masculinity and femininity, in Britain and in the United States; her current projects on breast cancer treatment and women's cancer screening consider the relationships between gender identity, illness experience, and cultures of prevention. Michael Worboys is continuing to work on sexually transmitted infections, developing his research from gonorrhoea to non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) and chlamydia.

Recent publications by CHSTM staff and students

Vicky Long, Hilary Marland and Robert Freedman. "Women at the dawn of British biochemistry: female contributors to the Biochemical Journal from 1906 to 1939". The Biochemist, 2009, 31(4): 50-52.

Vicky Long and Hilary Marland. "From danger and motherhood to health and beauty: health advice for the factory girl in early twentieth-century Britain". Twentieth Century British History, advance access published August 5, 2009.

Aya Homei. "Birth attendants in Meiji Japan: the rise of the biomedical birth model and a new division of labour". Social History of Medicine, 2006, 19(3): 407-424.

Aya Homei. "Sanba and their clients: midwives and the medicalization of childbirth in Japan". In Barbara Mortimer and Susan McGann, eds, New directions in history of nursing: international perspectives. London: Routledge, 2005.

Elizabeth Toon. "'Cancer as the general population knows it': knowledge, fear, and lay education in 1950s Britain". Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2007, 81(1): 116-138.

Michael Worboys. "Unsexing gonorrhoea: bacteriologists, gynaecologists and Suffragists in Britain, 1860-1920". Social History of Medicine, 2004, 17(1): 31-59.

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