by OTH Staff

Below are selected upcoming and recently published titles related to the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities for the January 2022 issue of OTH.  OTH does not receive any compensation for promoting these books and inclusion on this list is not an endorsement of any views. 


Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Therapies between Magic and Science

by  Jason Sion Mokhtarian

“Despite the Talmud being the richest repository of medical remedies in ancient Judaism, this important strain of Jewish thought has been largely ignored—even as the study of ancient medicine has exploded in recent years. In a comprehensive study of this topic, Jason Sion Mokhtarian recuperates this obscure genre of Talmudic text, which has been marginalized in the Jewish tradition since the Middle Ages, to reveal the unexpected depth of the rabbis’ medical knowledge. Medicine in the Talmud argues that these therapies represent a form of rabbinic scientific rationality that relied on human observation and the use of nature while downplaying the role of God and the Torah in health and illness. Drawing from a wide range of both Jewish and Sasanian sources—from the Bible, the Talmud, and Maimonides to texts written in Akkadian, Syriac, and Mandaic, as well as the incantation bowls—Mokhtarian offers rare insight into how the rabbis of late antique Babylonia adapted the medical knowledge of their time to address the needs of their community. In the process, he narrates an untold chapter in the history of ancient medicine.”

Published by the University of California Press, coming May 2022.


Insulin – The Crooked Timber

by Kersten T. Hall

From the Author:

“It’s about what technology can – and perhaps more importantly can’t – do for us. When insulin was first used to treat diabetic patients in the early 1920s, newspapers were full of triumphalist headlines about it being a miracle cure for diabetes. Clinicians involved in this work such as the eminent US diabetes specialist Elliott Joslin however knew that it was nothing of the sort. For even as he was likening the power of insulin to save lives with the vision of Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet who is supposed to have seen a valley of dry bones rise up and be restored to life, Joslin was issuing a stern warning to both doctors and patients about this new discovery.

 ‘Insulin is a remedy which is primarily for the wise and not for the foolish, be they patients or doctors, he warned, before adding ‘Everyone knows it requires brains to live long with diabetes, but to use insulin successfully requires more brains.’

 Joslin had recognised that, while insulin was necessary to live with Type 1 diabetes, it alone was not sufficient. Effective control of the condition required the use of insulin to be accompanied by appropriate behaviour on the part of the patient regarding diet and exercise.

It’s a lesson that I’ve had to learn since my diagnosis but it’s also one that I think has taken on a particular relevance to us all in the past 18 months since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic. It’s very tempting to think that technology alone will do all the heavy lifting in solving the many challenges that we face – such as those of climate change, AI or managing a global viral pandemic. But very often such technological solutions will only be at their most effective if they go hand in hand with appropriate behaviour on our part. This is as true for managing a global viral pandemic through a combination of vaccines and social measures such as wearing masks in public places, as it is for the management of Type 1 diabetes with insulin.

 So as we face the challenges of a global pandemic, AI and climate change, it seems to me that, since I first began writing this book, the story of insulin has lessons for us all – whether or not we happen to be injecting ourselves with it.”

Published by the University of Oxford Press, coming March 2022.


Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World: A Gendered Perspective

by Sarah E. Owens and Margaret E. Boyle

From the Publisher:

“Recognizing the variety of health experiences across geographical borders, Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World interrogates the concepts of “health” and “healing” between 1500 and 1800. Through an interdisciplinary approach to medical history, gender history, and the literature and culture of the early modern Atlantic World, this collection of essays points to the ways in which the practice of medicine, the delivery of healthcare, and the experiences of disease and health are gendered.

The contributors explore how the medical profession sought to exert its power over patients, determining standards that impacted conceptions of self and body, and at the same time, how this influence was mediated. Using a range of sources, the essays reveal the multiple and sometimes contradictory ways that early modern health discourse intersected with gender and sexuality, as well as its ties to interconnected ethical, racial, and class-driven concerns. Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World breaks new ground through its systematic focus on gender and sexuality as they relate to the delivery of healthcare, the practice of medicine, and the experiences of health and healing across early modern Spain and colonial Latin America.”

Published by the University of Toronto Press, April 2021.

via National Library of Medicine (NLM)

This story was originally published by the National Library of Medicine. See the original story here:

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces its 2022 History Talks. All talks are free, live-streamed globally, and archived by NIH VideoCasting.

NLM History Talks promote awareness and use of NLM and related historical collections for research, education, and public service in biomedicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. The series also supports the commitment of the NLM to recognize the diversity of its collections—which span ten centuries, encompass a range of digital and physical formats, and originate from nearly every part of the globe—and to foreground the voices of people of color, women, and individuals of a variety of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds who value these collections and use them to advance their research, teaching, and learning.

Interviews with the speakers in this series are published in Circulating Now, the blog of the NLM History of Medicine Division. Explore  on the blog and stay informed about NLM History Talks on Twitter at #NLMHistTalk.

Complete details of all NLM History Talks are available from the NLM History of Medicine Division website at


The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is a leader in research in biomedical informatics and data science and the world’s largest biomedical library. NLM conducts and supports research in methods for recording, storing, retrieving, preserving, and communicating health information. NLM creates resources and tools that are used billions of times each year by millions of people to access and analyze molecular biology, biotechnology, toxicology, environmental health, and health services information. Additional information is available at

by Laura Meader

This post originally appeared on Colby News on August 26, 2021. View the original story here:  

This fall marks the launch of an important new multidisciplinary research initiative at Colby that draws on the strength of the humanities to confront questions and problems of crucial civic importance. 

The Public Humanistic Inquiry Lab, or PHIL, initiative creates space and resources for a three-year faculty research collaborative that works across disciplines. Members of a PHIL interrogate traditional narratives, forge unexpected connections, and imagine new forms of outward-facing humanistic inquiry.

The lab is the result of a two-year planning effort by Colby’s Humanities Division to elevate the humanities and the cross-disciplinary research of faculty in the humanities, said Adrianna Paliyenko, chair of the Humanities Division who led the effort. “The PHIL is an opportunity to demonstrate the way in which humanistic inquiry remains central to the core of a liberal arts education,” said Pailyenko, Colby’s Arnold Bernhard Professor in Arts and Humanities.

Primary funding for the PHIL comes from the Margaret T. McFadden Fund for Humanistic Inquiry, made possible through a $1-million gift from Trustee Emerita Anne Clarke Wolff ’87 and Benjamin “Ted” E. Wolff III ’86. The endowed fund is named in honor of Provost and Dean of Faculty and Professor of American Studies Margaret McFadden, an accomplished and respected academic leader at the College.

While medical professions have recognized that racial and health inequities are closely linked, the humanities and social sciences point to structural racism’s impact on health outcomes across time and place and offer new ways of thinking about medicine in racialized societies. 

The inaugural PHIL, “Critical Medical Humanities: Perspectives on the Intersection of Race and Medicine,” will be led by Tanya Sheehan, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art, and Jay Sibara, assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Across her career, Sheehan has worked at the intersection of American art history and medical humanities, with a focus on the study of race and representation. Sibara’s scholarship brings together the fields of critical race and critical disability studies, literature, and the environmental humanities.

With the participation of 12 faculty across the College, the 2021-24 PHIL aims to stimulate campus-wide interest in critical medical humanities, which relies on interdisciplinary analytical tools to interrogate the power structures that have defined medical practices and to reveal the socially constructed, intersectional, and embodied experiences of health and illness. Among its principal activities will be sharing faculty research through the Medical Humanities Colloquium, collaborating with leading scholars around the world, organizing publications, and hosting conferences and other public events. 

According to Principal Investigator Sheehan, “the inaugural PHIL represents a unique opportunity for Colby faculty to share the critical questions they are asking about the relationship between medicine and race, to engage in collaborative research at Colby, and to participate in innovative international partnerships.” So far, Sheehan has been developing partnerships with Princeton University, the Australian Health and Medical Humanities Network, the digital project Visualizing the Virus, and others. She envisions the PHIL will “create opportunities for Colby faculty to publicly lead in the field of medical humanities and support their efforts to promote both scientific advancement and racial justice through their research and teaching.”

While medical professions have recognized that racial and health inequities are closely linked, the humanities and social sciences point to structural racism’s impact on health outcomes across time and place and offer new ways of thinking about medicine in racialized societies. 

“I’m excited to be a part of an initiative that will bring together and support faculty from across many fields engaging in research at the nexus of medicine and race,” said Associate PI Sibara. “For example, by examining the systems of inequity that have historically associated racial difference with disease and linked whiteness to perceptions of physical and social fitness, and by examining the ways in which visual, literary, and performing artists have responded to these inequities, the PHIL’s participants will collectively offer alternative frameworks for understanding the meaning of health, illness, care, and medicine in racialized societies.”

By engaging students in faculty-led research, the PHIL also hopes to prepare the broader Colby community to reflect on race in health experiences and professions. This work will be accomplished through an expansion of Colby’s medical humanities curriculum and the organization of local events. In addition to sponsoring two CARA (Colby Academic Research Assistants) students in 2021-22, Sheehan and Sibara have also begun conversations with Jessica Matzko, who directs pre-health advising through DavisConnects, about developing workshops for Colby students and the Waterville community that address aspects of healthcare and race. Student internships with the PHIL’s international partners are also in the works.  

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities of color, and as more Americans confront racial injustice,” Sheehan explained, “now is the time for Colby faculty to lead conversations about race and medicine.”