Hunting Tuberculosis through History: Disease in the Archives or Diseased Archives?
Free Public Lecture
Dulcie Hollyock Room, Ground Floor
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Hunting tuberculosis through history is a fascinating and challenging task. The disease has changed from prehistoric times, when it crossed over to humans due to the domestication of animals, until the present where multi-drug-resistant versions threaten to expose the 'emperor’s clothes' of modern medical technologies.
In the 19th century in Melbourne, tuberculosis found a new home in the crowded slums and was seen to be the 'white man’s burden' until the advent of bacteriology and germ theory burst upon the medical world.
Hunting tuberculosis also flushes out other fascinating issues. A historical study of tuberculosis and the introduction of bacteriology and modern medical methods and technologies raises important questions about modern issues in the history of science and medicine. What are the problems with dealing with the evidentiary basis of the history of tuberculosis? Were patients described as tubercular sufferers in the 19th century really suffering from tuberculosis? Should historians of medical research be aware of the current reproducibility crisis in examining the beginnings of disease research? How can historians, like current scientific researchers, protect the artefacts, both literary and material, from oblivion and contamination? Is the digitisation of archives the solution or the problem?
This lecture will examine all aspects of the life history of tuberculosis, focusing largely (but not exclusively) on Melbourne in the 19th century.