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Biomedicine in museums

History of stress and chronic disease in medical science and popular culture

By October 19, 2007No Comments

Mark Jackson, Director of the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, is giving a lecture in London on Wednesday 21 November on “The Stress of Life: Hans Selye and the Search for Stability”.

This is an exciting project because Selye (there is an unfinished short Wikipedia article about him) is one of the most interesting medical researchers in the 20th century, so Mark’s initiative to scrutinise his work (and life? Is there a biography in the pipeline?) is laudable. Here is the abstract of Mark’s talk:

Since the mid-20th century the notion of stress as a determinant of chronic disease has found acceptance both within psychology and clinical allergy, and within popular culture. The vocabulary of stress has thus achieved a powerful presence in everyday speech as a means of explaining the impact of work, personal history and emotional experience on health. The syndrome which came to be known as ‘stress’ was first described in 1936, by the Hungarian scientist Hans Selye (1907-82). This lecture explores the development and reception of Selye’s theories within the context of post-second world war concerns about international political stability and Selye’s own struggles for personal stability. It then evaluates the legacy of Selye’s formulation of the aetiology of chronic disease.

The lecture takes place at 5.30 pm at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Centre for History in Public Health (Bennett Room, Keppel Street building), and the centre wants to know if you want to attend — so please write a line to Ingrid James at More info at

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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