Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930

Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930

Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930

Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930

Synopsis

Networks in Tropical Medicine explores how European doctors and scientists worked together across borders to establish the new field of tropical medicine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book shows that this transnational collaboration in a context of European colonialism, scientific discovery, and internationalism shaped the character of the new medical specialty. Even in an era of intense competition among European states, practitioners of tropical medicine created a transnational scientific community through which they influenced each other and the health care that was introduced to the tropical world. One of the most important developments in the shaping of tropical medicine as a specialty was the major sleeping sickness epidemic that spread across sub-Saharan Africa at the turn of the century. The book describes how scientists and doctors collaborated across borders to control, contain, and find a treatment for the disease. It demonstrates that these medical specialists' shared notions of "Europeanness," rooted in common beliefs about scientific, technological, and racial superiority, led them establish a colonial medical practice in Africa that sometimes oppressed the same people it was created to help.

Excerpt

In 1901, John Todd, a medical student at McGill University in Montreal, arrived in Liverpool to begin a fellowship at the School of Tropical Medicine. Todd, whose original goal had been to become a surgeon, was transformed by his experience at the school. He was introduced to a new and exciting field of medicine, enjoyed the collegiality of cosmopolitan colleagues, and had the opportunity to visit laboratories across western Europe, where he rubbed shoulders with famous members of the small but growing tropical medicine community. He also joined several Liverpool expeditions to Africa, including one to Senegambia and French West Africa in 1902–1903, and another to the Congo Free State in 1903–1905 These trips were instrumental in establishing his reputation as a tropical medicine expert and provided him with material for numerous publications. Upon his return to Liverpool, Todd became the director of a major laboratory and served as an adviser to the British Colonial Office, and he eventually returned to Canada after gaining a prestigious position as associate professor of parasitology at McGill.

Todd’s early exposure to the world of European tropical medicine shaped his perspective and his long career. While in Africa, he wrote many letters to his mother, which reveal some of the most cherished hopes, ideas, and beliefs that, as a young man, he held about his work and his prospects. He hoped that he and his research partner, Joseph Dutton, could be at the forefront of the discovery of new microbes and diseases, and in one letter he wrote enthusiastically: “I tell you mother, that the sensation one experiences when a new fact is observed,—and one appreciates, until the other is told, that one is absolutely the only man on earth who knows the truth—is alone worth coming here to feel.” His ambition was also coupled with a larger wish that the medical research being undertaken in Africa and in the laboratories of Europe would yield results that would change the future of the Congo forever. In one letter he stated, “This will one day be a great country—when we’ve killed off, or found . . .

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