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Of Medicine and Men

Biographies and Ideas in European Social Medicine between the World Wars

Iris Borowy and Anne Hardy

Social medicine was one of the key health paradigms of the early twentieth century. It perceived public health as a function of social conditions and aimed at improving it through comprehensive, horizontal strategies. Yet, it was no homogeneous or static phenomenon. Depending on time, place and circumstances, it took different, sometimes ideologically contradictory forms. This volume portrays leading medical experts from seven European countries. Their juxtaposition reveals a network of international interaction and shows how different people coped with the crises of the time in different ways, sometimes as part of the scientific mainstream, sometimes as opposition under attack, sometimes in exile. Their biographies reflect an ambivalent interplay of biomedicine, politics and social theory.


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In the Shadow of Grotjahn. German Social Hygienists in the International Health Scene (Iris Borowy)


1 45 In the Shadow of Grotjahn German Social Hygienists in the International Health Scene Iris Borowy Social hygiene in Germany carried different, sometimes contradictory connota­ tions. lt had its roots in part in the nineteenth century sanitary movement. Be­ ginning with demands by Virchow, sanitary concepts of disease prevention were connected with calls for social reform, which would result in more healthful liv­ ing and working conditions. Later, hygienists such as Alfred Grotjahn, Ludwig Teleky, Alfons Fischer, Gustav Tugendreich, Adolf Gottstein or Ignatz Kaup, provided influential theoretical groundwork for a social medicine movement. After approximately 1 920, theoretical discussions in Germany gave way to the institutionalisation of social hygienic teachings through the establishment of a chair for social hygiene at the University of Berlin, the integration of social hy­ giene into medical curricula and the foundation of several social hygienic acad­ emies in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Breslau and Düsseldorf. 1 These developments tied into several overlapping layers of conflict. As in other countries, there was a natural tension between physicians working as public health officers and those acting as general practitioners or medical specialists. While the former were interested in preventive work, routinely reaching out to as many people as possible at public expense, the latter feared that these activi­ ties would encroach on their professional territory, and that a rival medical force would Jure away patients with unfair advantages. At the same time, both groups were divided between a !arger conservative group and a smaller faction which favoured progressive...

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