Elizabeth Watkins

Professor, Anthropology, History and Social Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, Office for the History of Science and Technology

I study the interplay among medicine, commerce, and culture in the United States in the 20th-21st centuries. I am especially interested in relationships among biomedical researchers, health care providers, lay people, drug makers, government regulators, and the media and how information flows between these groups. My research has focused on four main areas of inquiry:1. Birth control My first book, On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970 (Johns Hopkins, 1998), analyzed the development and subsequent impact of oral contraception on American society and culture during the 1950s and 1960s. I have recently completed two journal articles on the history of Norplant, the contraceptive implant and an article on the pill as a life style drug. 2. Hormones, gender, and aging My second book, The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America (Johns Hopkins, 2007), told the story of the rise and fall, and rise again and fall again of estrogen and its promise to forestall the diseases of aging and to maintain youthfulness in women. I have published three articles on the medical and cultural history of male menopause. These studies fit into contemporary efforts to expand gender studies to include men's experiences along with those of women. 3. Information about pharmaceuticals I have co-edited two volumes on the history of pharmaceuticals. Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs In History (NYU, 2007) examined the rich and multifaceted history of pharmaceutical medicines in modern America since World War II through the discrete but interconnected histories of eight important drugs. Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (Johns Hopkins, 2012) pushed the history of late 20th century pharmaceuticals and therapeutics beyond the drugs themselves, to shine a spotlight on various actors and their interactions over how these medications are used. 4. Stress and disease My current research explores popular understandings of andreferences to stress as a cause of disease, looking at how and when stress made its way into common parlance in America. Here, stress serves as a case study of how a medical idea makes its way from professional discourse into everyday vernacular, as I continue my research into the transmission and translation of scientific and medical ideas from experts to the lay public.

last updated: February 22nd, 2016