Hannah Chair, History of Medicine, Queen's University
nobel class 2010
Left: The excellent class of winter semester 2010 with distinguished visitor Professor Harry Jellinck.
Right: J. Duffin with John Sulston, Nobel Laureate 2002, after his Academic Freedom Lecture, Queen's U, Dec 2007

History 488/884:   Phil 871
Nobel Prize in Medicine: 
Who won it; Who didn't; and Why?

Mon or Wed 5:30-6:30 or by appointment

Nobel Prize in Medicine: Who won it? Who didn't? and Why?

Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been the ultimate recognition of major contributions in medical science. Yet, some Nobel achievements are now viewed with disdain (eg lobotomy, DDT); others seem incomplete or undeserved because they overlook workers who made key discoveries.

The course will begin with three classes to review the philosophy and sociology of scientific discovery. Then it will shift to an exploration of the application of these theories in specific cases. By studying the work and careers of some laureates, students will become familiar with and educate each other about landmarks in twentieth-century science. In exploring the acclaim and the controversies, they will be encouraged to utilize a wide range of sources including scientific journals, newspapers, magazines, archives, and the work of other historians and philosophers.

The course will end with a consideration of the nature of commemoration as a cultural phenomenon. Although medicine is the main focus, study of relevant Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, or peace is possible. Students may also choose to organize their readings around sub-themes, e.g., disasters, genetics, treatments, behaviour, women scientists, national or commercial interests, global health, or scientists as philosophers.

One half-term graduate/undergraduate seminar; 3 hours/wk

Mechanism: core and secondary readings,
two major essays each 30%--ie 60%
(one on a single prize; one on a general theme in several prizes)
student presentation on single Nobel prize (topic for essay #1) 25%
one essay proposal for essay #2 (two pages max!) 15%

Educational Objectives for all students
To study some of the medico-scientific achievements recognized by the Nobel prize, be they enduring or transient.

To explore the cultural nature of celebration and commemoration

To examine historians' work on Nobel laureates and learn to criticize their deficiencies and lacunae.

To understand the meaning of epistemology and how it applies to medical science.

To understand how some philosophers have addressed the epistemology of scientific discovery.


PHILOSOPHY 871 Objectives in particular

Course Outline for 2011-12

Presentations for 2012 winter


List of Nobel Prizes