Thesis ID: CBB001567257

Transforming Flu: Medical Science and the Making of a Virus Disease in London, 1890--1939 (cited 2010)


This thesis reconstructs the redefinition of influenza as a ⿿virus disease⿿ in London between 1890 and 1939. Whereas retrospective pathology seeks to identify past viruses, the work presented here recovers how medical science first made flu a viral disease. It traces this process to the 1889-94 pandemic, when flu was framed as an infectious disease linked to the modern city and modern communications. This involved the reorganization of epidemiology, clinical medicine and pathology around the problem of identifying and controlling specific causes of disease, and set the stage for British approaches to the great pandemic of 1918-19. As an extension of Medical Research Committee (later Council) and War Office efforts to position pathology as central to tackling disease of modern war, the militarization of medicine also became integral to the diagnosis and management of flu. Arguing that the pandemic gave urgency to questions about virus diseases and the ability of pathology to answer them, the thesis shows how the MRC exploited this to position the National Institute of Medical Research as the hub of a new programme of virus research. Aimed at establishing virus diseases as crucial medical problems, and pathology as an experimental science necessary to their solution, the practices developed at the NMR for dog distemper in the 1920s were the basis for the identification of a filterable virus as the cause of flu in 1933. Though often presented as a revolutionary discovery, flu⿿s redefinition as a virus disease depended on the work of constructing consensus, and specifically on aligning virus research with the existing knowledge of London⿿s clinicians, pathologists, epidemiologists and public health officials. By demonstrating how the virus could be used to explain the disease in these terms, NIMR researchers made flu virus indispensable to medical attempts to cope with this intractable disease of modern life.


Description Defense date not indicated; cited by UMI in 2010. Cited in ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Proquest Document ID: 899759175.

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Authors & Contributors
Abeysinghe, Sudeepa
Wingfield, Nancy M.
Bresalier, Michael
Serrón, Víctor
Nunes, Everardo Duarte
Lima, Nísia Trinidade [Trindade]
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Social History of Medicine
Medizin, Gesellschaft, und Geschichte
Central European History
Science in Context
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Ohio University Press
University of Exeter (United Kingdom)
University of Exeter
Cambridge University Press
Duke University Press
Public health
Infectious diseases
Disease and diseases
Mayhew, Henry
Chagas, Carlos
Andrade, Mário de
Latta, Thomas Aitchison
Koch, Robert
Smith, Theobald
Time Periods
20th century, early
21st century
20th century
19th century
20th century, late
18th century
Great Britain
United States
London (England)
World Health Organization (WHO)

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