Lecture at NYAM: Susan L. Smith on WWII Mustard Gas Experiments
This year, the New York Academy of Medicine's Public Lecture Series in the History of Medicine and Public Health has been looking at some new aspects of the history of medicine in wartime - specifically, the interplay between war, medicine and society. Our series explores the poisonous ideologies that fester into wars, and the development and testing of deadly new weapons to fight them; the social and
infrastructural stresses and fractures war brings; and the challenges of helping war's maimed and damaged soldiers find peaceful occupations when the fighting is over.
The series concludes next month with Susan L. Smith's look at human experimentation in the context of global war.
Thursday, May , 8, 2008, 6:00 PM with reception at 5:30 PM The Lilianna Sauter Lecture Medicine in Wartime, Part IV: Place, Health and War: World War II Mustard Gas Experiments in Transnational Perspective Susan L. Smith, University of Alberta
In the early 1940s, medical scientists funded by the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service conducted painful mustard gas experiments on at least 60,000 American soldiers. The Allies, including the governments of Canada, Britain, Australia, and the United States, conducted these experiments on their own soldiers in order to identify the impact of chemical weapons on the health of soldiers. One component of the research program involved examining how mustard gas affected men of various "races." At least eight separate experimental programs in the United States focused specifically on Japanese American and African American soldiers and one focused on testing Puerto Ricans on an island off Panama. The researchers were searching for evidence of race-based differences in the responses of the human body to mustard gas exposure. In the 1940s in a climate of contested beliefs over the existence and meanings of racial differences, medical researchers examined the bodies of these specific minority groups for evidence of how they differed from whites.
Susan L. Smith is a Professor of History and Classics at the University of Alberta specializing in the history of health and medicine. Her current reserach focuses on race, health, and war. She is the author of two books on race and health in the United States, Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women's Health Activism in America, 1890-1950 and Japanese American Midwives: Culture, Community, and Health
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