Biomedicine: Historical Perspective


This course aims to lead students to reflect on the nature of biomedicine, the assumptions of its origin and its importance for the most current debates in Science, Medicine and Society, which are based on the historical and cognitive matrix of science and medicine.
It also intends to familiarize students with the evolution of historiographical narratives that will give them a more comprehensive approach to the production and circulation of medical knowledge, contributing to their integral formation, and to the awareness of the role of medicine and the physician in the social framework, in each historical moment.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Prof. Doutora Isabel Amaral


Weekly - Available soon

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Support texts for the various topics proposed will be made available on the Moodle platform.

Amaral, A. Carneiro, T. S. Mota, V. M. Borges, J. L. Doria (coord.), Percursos da Saude Publica nos seculos XIX e XX – a proposito de Ricardo Jorge (Lisboa: Celom, 2011).
Barros Veloso, A.;  Damas Mora, L; Leitao, H. , Medicos, Medicina e Sociedade: para uma história da medicina em Portugal no século XX (Lisboa, By the Book, 2017)
Cooter, R.; Stein, C., Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013)

Frank M. Snowden, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present (The Open Yale Courses Series) (Yale University Press, 2020).
Hannaway, C., Biomedicine in the Twentieth Century: Practices, Policies, and Politics (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2008)
Hazelwood, L.F., Can't Live Without It: The Story of Hemoglobin in Sickness and in Health (Nova Science Pub. Inc., 2001)

Levy, D.; Brink, S., A Change of Heart: How the People of Framingham, Massachusetts, Helped Unravel the Mysteries of Cardiovascular Disease (New York: Knopf; 2005)
Maddox, B., Rosalind Franklin - The Dark Lady of DNA (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002).
Mukherjee, S., The Emperor of all Maladies: a Biography of Cancer (New York: Scribner, 2011)Porter, R. (ed.), The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, a Medical History of Humanity (W. W. Norton & Company, 1999)
Rose, W., Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine (New York: Penguim Books, 2018).

Soraya de Chadarevian; Kamminga, Molecularizing Biology and Medicine: new practices and alliances, 1920s to 1970s (Cambridge: Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, 2003).

Tattersall, R., Diabetes: the Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Teaching method

There will be a theoretical-practical class of 2 hours per week.
In each of the classes historical articles on the theoretical theme will be analyzed. The first 20 minutes of the lesson will be of theoretical exposition, in which the diferente concepts listed in the syllabus will be discussed, followed by discussion.
The remaining time will be used by the students, to presente individually the theme that was previously assigned to them. A final discussion follows.
The course page, in the Moodle platform, several texts will be available on each of the themes. Each student will have to read one of them.

Evaluation method

This course unit will have a continuous evaluation, without recourse to final exam.

I tis necessary to attend in 2/3 of the theoretical-practical classes, and it is not possible to offer substitution classes. I tis important for the student not to be absent in the class where he or she can make his/her presentation.

a) Contribution to the final classification, the following parameters and their respective weight:
1. Participation and discussion in class (35%).
2. Completion of the glossary of the course, available in Moodle, defining specific terms used in the discussion of the theme chosen by each student, for the final work (15%).
3. Final work of about 15 pages about a theme chosen, either between the topics addressed or suggested by the students (50%). This paper will be denied without being able to re-submit new work in the same school year.
b) In case of plagiarism, the student will be denied without being able to re-submit new work in the same school year.
c) The assessment is valid for one academic year.
d) The evaluation Schedule will be announced by the Pedagogical Council.
e) There is no place to consult the work for evaluation, since all of them will be discussed orally in classroom with the professor and the other colleagues.

Subject matter

This UC takes place over 14 weeks, one topic each week, according to the following thematic proposal: 

1. Introduction to biomedicine
2. Paramyloidosis: the contribution of Corino de Andrade
3. Vitamins and the Dynamics of molecularization
4. Tuberculosis and the fight against infection
5. The Penicillin and antibiotic’s revolution
6. Insulin: From Discovery to Therapy
7. Molecular therapeutics: Edwin Cohn and the discovery of the structure of hemoglobin
8. Science and Gender in science and medicine
9. The history of early clinical trials of oral contraceptives, 1950-1959
10. The Social Construction of Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease: Framingham Heart Study 
11. Cancer: history, approaches and challenges
12. Pharmaceutical industry and biomedical research in the 20th century
13. HIV/AIDS: biomedicine and culture
14. The epidemics of the 21st century

From the set of selected topics, we intend to approach concepts such as molecularization, tacit knowledge, geography of scientific knowledge (intelectual, social and political migrations), calculus, network, prematurity and Big Science.



Programs where the course is taught: