Invading Medicine: Physics in the formation of Radiology
(Book Manuscript in progress)
In January of 1896, German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen circulated startling x-ray images of his wife's hand, sparking a frenzy of excitement over the possibilities of this new technology. The equipment needed to produce an x-ray image was available in most physics labs, and within weeks, physicists were complaining about the distraction caused by doctors bringing in patients to diagnose fractures or locate stray bullets. Once doctors were able purchase their own x-ray equipment they no longer had to rely on the patience and goodwill of their neighbourhood physicist. But even as this technology moved out of physics labs and into medical spaces, a number of physicists and physicians continued meeting to share research, to work together to set safety standards and to evaluate methods for measuring a dose of x-rays. This book tells the untold story of this collaboration in the first decades of the twentieth century, asking how these individuals worked together, often with very different goals, tools and training, to make sense of the properties of these new rays and to develop a set of best practices for their use in medicine. Rather than being a story of compromise and mutual transformation, I argue that the values of the physicists increasingly shaped the emerging field of radiology.
Current Controversies in Plant Biology
(with Delia Gavrus, University of Winnipeg)
Over the last decade, a small group of ecologists and plant physiologists have begun to argue that plants exhibit consciousness. These claims have been met with fierce criticism from scientists in multiple fields. In this project, we ask whether plant cognition constitutes a coherent field of study and evaluate this early 21st century debate against major epistemological shifts in the past including Romanticism in the early 19th century and eco-feminism in the mid 20th C. We investigate how the history and philosophy of science enters into this debate, as well as the extent to which many proponents of plant cognition are, consciously or not, echoing past traditions and ideas in their attempts to “re-enchant” nature.
Ellis Parker Butler. The Incubator Baby (1906)
Mechanical Womb and Artificial Mother: Designing the Infant Incubator 1900 - 1940
In this new project, I investigate the design of early infant incubators, devices which seemed able to replace or even improve upon mothers' bodies and care in particular ways. Invented in France in 1880, incubators for premature and weak infants had arrived in some American hospitals and at fairs and exhibitions by 1900. Early models kept the babies isolated from the environment, regulating the temperature and often the kind of air that the baby was breathing. This allowed a baby born too early to continue developing as she or he would have in utero. The first strand of my research will compare what was known about uterine physiology and fetal development with particular elements of incubator design in order to investigate the extent to which this technology embodied and responded to that knowledge.
I have won a short-term fellowship to conduct research at the Huntington Library and a Lemelson grant to support a research trip to the National Museum of American History in D.C. in 2021.