Science, Sympathy, and the World of Civil War Medicine


Sharon Ann Holt, associate teaching professor of history at Penn State Abington, discusses how the carnage of the Civil War set off extraordinary innovation in battlefield medicine, pioneering the modern medical idea that illness should be addressed with science rather than moral reform. In the aftermath, as medical innovations continued, social norms about masculinity had to adapt to the existence of 400,000 wounded veterans. This tension helped to alter the 19th-century gender system in ways that set the stage for the 20th century.

A native of the Great Lakes region, Holt earned a doctorate in American history in 1991 from the University of Pennsylvania. She has divided her career between academic teaching and public history, serving museums and historical organizations in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. She is the author of "Making Freedom Pay: North Carolina freedpeople working for themselves, 1865-1900" and recently received an Emmy award for her work as a historical commentator on "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."

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