Medical historian Allan Brandt, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, has authored the “Perspective” article in the 200th anniversary edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, published this January. Discussing the history of the Journal, Brandt tracks its seminal role in observing and investigating disease, reporting innovations in medicine, and educating the medical profession. Beyond that, he explains how the Journal became the zeitgeist of the field, documenting evolving opinions on issues such as gender equality and eugenics. Brandt elaborated on his remarks in a podcast, available here.
“Given the breadth of the Journal‘s interests and contributors over these past two centuries, it serves today as a remarkable resource for understanding the profound changes that have occurred in medicine,” says Brandt, Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and professor of the history of science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “The Journal,” he continues, “is not just a window on clinical medicine and scientific advance; it serves as a basis for investigating the history of medicine in all its complexity: it reflects the relationships of culture, society, economy, and politics to medical knowledge, practice, and the organization of health care.” It offers a window on the rise of technology and of specialization, the evolution of medical education, and a reminder of the changing boundary between science and medicine, Brandt writes.
During its tenure as the longest continuously published medical periodical in the world, the Journal chronicled how “medicine and health care moved from the social periphery to become dominant aspects of our science, culture, and economy,” Brandt writes. “The Journal unquestionably owes its success and stability to this monumental shift in the status, authority, and impact of biomedicine. But the Journal has also played a critical role in these developments. By combining a commitment to publishing papers of scrupulous scientific merit across wide-ranging domains, with a recognition of the central questions and values uniting the profession, the Journal has remained true to its founders’ vision.”