|Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-04-15 19:20Z by Steven|
Providence, Rhode Island
Program in Science and Technology Studies
This February, Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence, professor of medical science and Africana studies, and a member of the Science and Technology Studies Program, Lundy Braun released her new book Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics.
In her book, Lundy Braun traces the little-known history of the spirometer to reveal the ways medical instruments have worked to naturalize racial and ethnic differences, from Victorian Britain to today. An unsettling account of the pernicious effects of racial thinking that divides people along genetic lines, this book helps us understand how race enters into science and shapes medical research and practice.
In the antebellum South, plantation physicians used a new medical device—the spirometer—to show that lung volume and therefore vital capacity were supposedly less in black slaves than in white citizens. At the end of the Civil War, a large study of racial difference employing the spirometer appeared to confirm the finding, which was then applied to argue that slaves were unfit for freedom. What is astonishing is that this example of racial thinking is anything but a historical relic…
Read the entire article here.