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University of Nebraska Medical Center

Davis History of Medicine lecture set for April 14

Jaipreet Virdi, PhD, will present the 14th annual Richard B. Davis, MD, PhD, History of Medicine Lecture on April 14 from noon to 1 p.m. The lecture, titled “Negotiating Normalcy: Deafness Cures in American History,” will be a hybrid event located at the College of Public Health auditorium, room 3013 and via Zoom (registration required).  An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter will be present and Zoom captioning will be available.  

During the late nineteenth century, entrepreneurs began to glut the direct-to-consumer medical market with a plethora of remedies they professed could miraculously cure deafness. They claimed their medicines and machines fostered a world of unbridled optimism for providing “hope” to deaf ears. Even as medical specialists denounced these “cure-all” treatments as quackery in its finest form, the messages of restoring hearing would transfer over to the hearing aid industry.  

Focusing on the marketing of cures for deafness—hearing trumpets, electrotherapy apparatuses, and hearing aids—this presentation unravels the many ways deaf people sought to restore or gain hearing. This history provides a broad context for understanding the lived experiences of deaf people and how cultural pressures of normalcy significantly stigmatized deafness. 

Dr. Virdi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delaware. A historian of medicine, technology, and disability, her research focuses on the ways medicine and technology impact people with disability. She is author of Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History (University of Chicago Press, 2020), co-editor of Disability and the Victorians: Attitudes, Legacies, Interventions (Manchester University Press, 2020), and has published articles on diagnostic technologies, audiometry, and the medicalization of deafness. 

The library will hold a drawing for Dr. Virdi’s book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History. Entries can be made online.  

The Richard B. Davis, MD, PhD, History of Medicine Lectureship brings national experts to the UNMC campus to discuss the history of medicine, in support of special collections at the McGoogan Library, including rare books and works on the history of medicine. The lectureship is supported through an endowed fund given by the late Richard B. Davis (1926-2010), MD, PhD, who was a UNMC faculty member from 1969 to 1994 and professor emeritus of internal medicine at UNMC. Dr. Davis and his wife, Jean, provided support for the lectureship out of his longstanding interest in the history of medicine. 

Boxed lunches will be available to the first 50 in-person attendees. 

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