The Color of the Collection: Material History and Diabetic Sugar Monitoring in the 20th Century

Lunchtime Lectures
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk by Elizabeth Neswald, Doan Fellow at the Science History Institute.

Insulin is rightly hailed as a game changer in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Lost behind this triumphal story, however, are the more mundane stories of the objects, skills, and practices that were necessary to enable insulin to become an effective treatment. In this talk Neswald will focus on one of them: the history of methods for measuring diabetic sugar levels. Color emerges as a central element of this story, which combines the history of medicine with the histories of biochemistry, optics, standardization, and the material culture of health care. Based on research in progress at the Science History Institute and with its collections, this talk will also highlight the ways that a collection that includes objects and ephemera, as well as traditional print material, can lead to deeper insights into historical practices.

About the Speaker

Elizabeth Neswald

Elizabeth Neswald

Elizabeth Neswald.

Elizabeth Neswald is an associate professor of the history of science and technology at Brock University in Ontario. She is the author of a book on the cultural history of thermodynamics in the 19th century and a coeditor of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project. She has written several essays on the history of nutritional physiology and basal metabolism studies. Currently, she is investigating racial theories of basal metabolism in the 1920s to 1950s and completing her monograph, Counting Calories: Thermodynamics, Statistics and the Emergence of Modern Nutrition Science. At the Science History Institute she is conducting research on the material culture of diabetes management in the 20th century.

About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.