I teach in the History and Sociology of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania, and I am director of Penn’s Health and Societies Program. I specialize in the history of public health. My teaching and research focus on the factors that have made certain populations more vulnerable to illness in the past and present, and on the shifting ways in which societies have understood health and disease. My first two books, The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in Nineteenth-Century France (University of California Press, 1995) and The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), investigate how scientific developments, social transformations, political imperatives, and shifting cultural values combined to reshape perceptions of health, disease, and bodily substances before and during the Bacteriological Revolution of the late nineteenth century.
[How I Became an Answer on “Jeopardy”]
I am currently writing a history of the Lazaretto quarantine station (1799-1895) on the Delaware River outside Philadelphia—the oldest surviving quarantine station in the Western Hemisphere and the seventh oldest in the world. I am also working to preserve and interpret the Lazaretto historic site. In recent years, I have also taught and written about strategies for presenting history to the public, and about the ways in which historical perspectives can change the way we confront health and illness today.