Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Overlooked Images of Medicine in the Late 19th Century


Join Professor Bert Hansen as he discusses some of the popular images of American medicine from the late nineteenth century that he has donated to Yale's Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. In this presentation, Professor Hansen shows us what medicine looked like and how it was experienced by the public at that time. 

Professor Hansen's images use medicine to satirize the politics of the day, often showing politicians, political parties or mascots as sickly and in need of care. These illustrations depict the changing character of medicine and how it was interpreted by journalists, cartoonists, and the reading public in the late nineteenth century. To help viewers find further information about political cartoons and the depictions of science and medicine that often appear in them, he has created a Study Guide that you can download from the Resources tab at the top of this page. 

Dr. Hansen's presentation, using images he has collected over decades and which are now part of The Bert Hansen Collection at Yale's Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, shows us the rapidly changing discipline of medicine and its public reception through lively and fascinating mass media cartoons and illustrations. 

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Bert Hansen Professor Emeritus of History, Baruch College, CUNY

Bert Hansen has been teaching the history of science and medicine, after earning his PhD from Princeton University in 1974, at Binghamton University, the University of Toronto, New York University, and Baruch College of the City University of New York. He has published two books and numerous articles about medical and scientific developments from the 14th century through the 20th and about the imagery and popular attitudes that surround them. He has also written about gay history. His most recent scholarship examines the significance of Louis Pasteur's engagement with the fine arts. For more, see https://berthansen.com

Study Guide for "Overlooked Images of Medicine" in America's New Mass Media of the Late 19th Century

Insights from the Collections

The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of nineteenth century medicine and its popular depictions. 

Our cross-instiutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials. 

Search the Consortium search hub.

Some archival materials related to this topic include:

Search The Bert Hansen Collection of Medicine and Public Health in Popular Graphic Art here

Samuel X. Radbill Papers, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

William W. Keen Papers, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Robert Abbe Papers, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

John Wiley Papers, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Simon Flexner Papers, American Philosophical Society

Some related publications from our presenter:

Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America, by Bert Hansen; Rutgers, 2009. 

"Medical History's Graphic Power in American True-Adventure Comic Books of the 1940s," in Handbook of Popular Culture and Biomedicine: Knowledge in the Life Sciences as Cultural Artefact, ed. Arno Gorgen, German Alfonso Nunez Canabal, and Heiner Fangerau (Springer International, 2019), pp. 179-194. 

Bert Hansen and Richard E. Weisberg. "Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), his friendships with the artist Max Claudet (1840-1893) and Paul Dubois (1829-1905), and his public image in the 1870s and 1880s," Journal of Medical Biography 25:1 (February 2017), pp. 9-18. 

See also recent work from our fellows:

Disciplining the Drunkard: The Medico-Legal History of Habitual Drunkenness in Nineteenth-Century America, David Korostyshevsky

Hippocratic Vows: How the Doctor's Wife Transformed American Medicine, Kelly O'Donnell

"A New Woman": Yamei Kin's Contributions to Medicine and Women's Rights in the U.S. and China, 1864-1934, Xiao Li

"A Mind Prostrate": Physicians, Opiates, and Insanity in the Civil War's Aftermath, Jonathan Jones

Anatomy's Photography: Objectivity, Showmanship & the Reinvention of the Anatomical Image, 1850-1950, Michael Sappol