Profile: Stephen Pemberton

(NJIT) Associate Professor and Chair

Faculty
Department of History

Research Interests: history of medicine, history of biomedical sciences and technology, history of public health, twentieth-century U.S. history


As a historian of medicine, my published research has largely focused on the history of diseases and their management.  

I am author, most recently, of The Bleeding Disease: Hemophilia and the Unintended Consequences of Medical Progress (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). This book interprets both the successes and problems that hemophilia management entailed in the last century, focusing especially on the optimism about technological progress that not only fueled hemophilia’s transformation, but also generated hope for the “normalization” of people of hemophilia. The latter goal, I argue, was consistently cast in gendered terms because the evolving medical characterization of hemophilia as a sex-linked hereditary disorder meant that the disease was seen predominately as a male affliction throughout the twentieth century. The book also details how the quest for “normalization” played an ironic and unforeseen role in the iatrogenic catastrophe that witnessed HIV and hepatitis C transmission to nearly ninety-percent of Americans with severe hemophilia in the 1980s. Additionally, this work addresses the medical, social, and cultural contexts that characterized relations between hemophilia advocacy groups, the medical community, private enterprise, and government agencies; and suggests how these relationships are relevant for understanding long-standing debates in the U.S. regarding the rights and the responsibilities of various actors in the medical marketplace. In short, The Bleeding Disease utilizes hemophilia’s history to address diverse issues of importance to contemporary medicine and society.

I am also co-author (with Keith Wailoo) of The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). That book situates the therapeutic histories of three well-known hereditary diseases as an explanatory backdrop for understanding how racial ideologies, cultural politics, and conflicting beliefs about the power of genetics have shaped disparate health care expectations and experiences in American medicine and society.

I am currently working on several research projects.  One explores how genetics was understood, appropriated, and advanced by twentieth-century physicians engaged in preclinical and clinical research involving blood and diseases of the blood; from the use of biochemistry and animal models to the incorporation of the techniques of molecular biology into blood work, hematologists played a significant role in the formation of genetic medicine in the twentieth century. This work builds on my prior books, but is most directly an outgrowth of my article: “Canine Technologies, Model Patients: The Historical Production of Hemophiliac Dogs in American Biomedicine,” which appeared in Industrializing Organisms: Introducing Evolutionary History (New York: Routledge, 2004). Another project I am developing is a cultural and social history of blood’s status as commodity and its implications for human health.  And finally, I continue to research problems associated with the historical management of chronic diseases (and am actively drawing on disability studies as well as socio-cultural analyses of medicine here).
 

  • Courses Taught

    Undergraduate:
        Germs, Genes, and the Body: Science and Technology in Modern Medicine (HIST 381)
        The History of American Medicine and Public Health (HIST 379)
        Medicine and Health Law in Modern America (Hist 378)

    Graduate:
        Social History of American Medicine Since 1800 (HIST 626)
        AIDS in America: Culture and Science in the History of American Medicine (HIST 622)
        Race, Culture, and Science in the History of American Medicine (HIST 622)
        Topics in the History of Health: Medicine and Health Law in Twentieth-Century America (HIST 656)
        Topics in the History of Health: Heredity and Health in American Society (HIST 656)
        The History of the Body in Modern Western Culture (HIST 630)
        Technology, Environment and Health: Theory and Method (HIST 635)

     

  • Education

    Ph.D. in History/History of Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    M.A. in History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    M.A. in Philosophy, University of Memphis

  • Publications

    The Bleeding Disease: Hemophilia and the Unintended Consequences of Medical Progress (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011)

    The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, and Sickle Cell Disease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Co-authored with Keith Wailoo

    "Canine Technologies, Model Patients: The Historical Production of Hemophiliac Dogs in American Biomedicine," in Susan Schrepfer and Philip Scranton, eds.,Industrializing Organisms: Introducing Evolutionary History (New York: Routledge, 2004), 191-213.

  • Awards

    Winner of the 2006 Association of American Publishers/Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division book award in the History of Science category for Keith Wailoo and Stephen Pemberton, The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, and Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press).
    Visiting Scholar, Institute for Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston TX, January-March 2004.
    Faculty Fellow, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, New Brunswick NJ 2002- 2003.
    Postdoctoral Associate, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research and Department of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ, 2001- 2003.
    John J. Pisano Grant, Historical Office, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD, 1998-1999

  • Expertise

    history of medicine, history of biomedical sciences and technology, history of public health, twentieth-century U.S. history