Science and Medicine in the United States of America

Edmund Ramsden

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546497
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Science and Medicine in the United States of America


This article begins with great optimism expressed by Tocqueville for America's future as the embodiment of the democratic state. It discusses the opportunity to express the liberal political ideals, arguing that its success was based on a community of common sensibility. An understanding of society and politics endowed the historian with the power to help remake health care. This article explores and compares the ways in which medicine is developed and applied in a number of different social, cultural, and physical contexts. It shows rapid growth, from a period in which European ideas, methods, and structures were adapted to the American context, to one in which the United States is at the forefront of large-scale initiatives in public health, disease control, and innovation in the biomedical sciences. Finally, it mentions the contradiction, most notably between profound faith in the technical capacities of medical science and equally profound dissatisfaction with the provision of health care.

Keywords: Tocqueville; America; health; disease control; medical science

Article.  8979 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History

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