Taking the Pulse: New Books in the History of Health and Medicine in Canada

By Lux, Maureen | Journal of Canadian Studies, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Taking the Pulse: New Books in the History of Health and Medicine in Canada


Lux, Maureen, Journal of Canadian Studies


J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada: Extracts and Enterprise. By Alison Li. McGill-Queen's/Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, Health, and Society no. 18. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003. 256 pp. $55.00 (cloth) ISBN 9780773526099.

Women, Health, and Nation: Canada and the United States since 1945. Ed. Georgina Feldberg, Molly Ladd-Taylor, Alison Li, and Kathryn McPherson. McGill-Queen's/ Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, Health, and Society no. 16. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003. 448 pp. $80.00 (cloth) ISBN 9780773525009. $29.95 (paper) ISBN 9780773525016.

An Element of Hope: Radium and the Response to Cancer in Canada, 1900-1940. By Charles Hayter. McGill-Queen's/Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, Health and Society no. 22. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005. 288 pp. $70.00 (cloth) ISBN 9780773528697.

The Struggle to Serve: A History of the Moncton Hospital, 1895-1953. By W.G. Godfrey. McGill-Queen's/Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, Health, and Society no. 21. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004. 256 pp. $75.00 (cloth) ISBN 9780773525122.

Nutrition Policy in Canada, 1870-1939. By Aleck Ostry. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006. 160 pp. $85.00 (cloth) ISBN 9780774813273. $34.95 (paper) ISBN 9780774813280.

Aboriginal Health in Canada: Historical, Cultural, and Epidemiological Perspectives. 2nd ed. By James B. Waldram, D. Ann Herring, and T. Kue Young. 2006. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. 352 pp. $70.00 (cloth) ISBN 0802087922. $29.95 (paper) ISBN 0802085792.

The social history of medicine in Canada is healthy and fit, judging by the new titles published in the past few years. Scholars have developed important new work that widens and deepens the historiography. Moreover, these new books also address the history of some of the most pressing health concerns today: medical research, transnational studies of women's health, cancer and its treatment, hospitals and health-care funding, diet and nutrition, and the history of Aboriginal health. Historians of medicine in Canada are fortunate to have solid publishing support from the partnership of McGill-Queen's University Press and Associated Medical Services (Hannah Institute) in their Studies in the History of Medicine, Health, and Society series, which published all but two of the titles under consideration. The Hannah Institute also provides generous research funding for students and scholars in the history of medicine. Such substantial assistance is rare for scholars in Canada and bodes well for the continued strength of the field. The books reviewed below all address the historic roots of contemporary health-care issues. Although historians are generally cautious about applying the lessons of the past to current concerns, they will agree that understanding something about how things came to be may indeed illuminate how things might be changed.

Medical research in Canada today is a multi-million dollar enterprise, but its roots are humble. Alison Li's J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada charts this history by linking the major events in one man's career to the bigger story of the development of institutional research in Canada. Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Best, as the developers of insulin, are familiar to most Canadians, but the other member of the team, J.B. "Bert" Collip is not so well-known. Collip was the young biochemist who purified the extract and made the development of insulin possible. Alison Li's book is not so much the biography of a man as it is the story of a career that spanned the most important developments in medical research in Canada. Collip was one of the few who were able to earn a PhD in Canada at the University of Toronto before the First World War. …

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