Medicine: From Magic to Microbes

Subject 136-039 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 2, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures and a 1-hour tutorial each week.
Total Time Commitment: 2.5 contact hours/week, 6 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Usually 75 points of first year study across any discipline areas.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Prof Janet Susan Mccalman


Prof Janet McCalman

Subject Overview: This subject is a history of medicine from prehistory to the present, with a special emphasis on the past three hundred years. It explores the experience and understanding of disease and its therapies in different cultural settings, and the transformation in those understandings since the scientific revolution - from the magical to the molecular. It includes ancient medicine, the evolution of the hospital, the contest between lay and professional practitioners, dissection and the birth of the clinic, the discovery of the germ and the rise of the laboratory. What is the patient's story? How has medicine changed our experience and management of sickness, trauma, sexuality and difference? What do we mean by 'medicalisation' and how has it changed private life? Students who complete this subject should develop the ability to analyse the role of medicine and its practitioners in the shaping of private experience, public welfare, suffering and mortality.
Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject should
  • have a considerable understanding of the history of medicine and an understanding of various social, ethical, cultural and scientific contexts in which health care has occurred;
  • develop an ability to conduct critical research in the social sciences, thus developing an understanding of library and other information sources;
  • through the written work develop an appropriate method of presenting an argument (either sociological, anthropological or historical) by developing critical analysis through synthesizing, and distinguishing between, a variety of arguments and ideas;
  • gain the necessary critical acumen and store of relevant knowledge to be able to engage confidently and intelligently in contemporary debates around medical and scientific (particularly socio-biological) issues;
  • have the background in the history and sociology of the life sciences in which to base further research in the subject.
Assessment: Three 500-word position papers 30% (to be submitted in the relevant class), a 2500 word research essay 60% (due after the teaching period) and 10% for class participation. A hurdle requirement of 80% attendance at tutorials.
Prescribed Texts:
  • Blood & Guts: A Short History of Medicine (Roy Porter) 2003
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: Students who successfully complete this subject should
  • develop skills in written and oral communication;
  • conduct independent research;
  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;
  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting arguments.
Notes: Formerly available as 136-225/325 and 136-039 Blood, Guts and Science. Students who have completed 136-225/325 Social History of Medicine or Blood, Guts and Science are not eligible to enrol in this subject.
Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Social Health
Graduate Diploma in Social Health (Health Care History)
Graduate Diploma in Social Health (Medical Anthropology)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History & Philosophy of Science
History && Philosophy of Science Major

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