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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The University of California Medical Humanities Consortium was founded in January 2010 through a grant from UC’s Office of the President, establishing it as a Multicampus Research Program. Recognizing that the medical humanities was pursued at multiple UC medical schools and health science centers, faculty directors from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UCSF can now support collaborative student research projects, publications, and resources for courses and public events.

Our aim is to have a substantial record of achievement and innovation in particular themes that we collectively pursue through our allocated research funding at the end of our five year grant period. We then hope to expand our efforts to include faculty and students at the remaining UC health science centers to promote an even more rigorous and representative approach to supporting humanism in medicine and health science education.

Cover page of The Art of Evidence and the Morality of Medical Decisions

The Art of Evidence and the Morality of Medical Decisions


In this paper, Dr. Brian Dolan looks at epistemological challenges to the tenets of Evidence Based Medicine by focusing on some of the ways that statistical data is presented as evidence. Dr. Dolan seeks more generally to explore the contours of quantification and digitization in biomedicine in search of uses of the graphic method and the status of producing pictures of numbers. One area implicated in the relationship between statistical representation and EBM is the way risk factors and decision making techniques are communicated in the physician-patient relationship, hence the question of the morality that underlies the art of evidence.

Cover page of Neurological Humanism: The Divided Brain and the Unification of Two Cultures

Neurological Humanism: The Divided Brain and the Unification of Two Cultures


This paper concerns debates that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s about the effect of technological and scientific development on the “dehumanization” of medicine. It draws on perspectives from neuroscience and neurosurgery to reexamine philosophical positions about the relations between the brain and the mind, the seat of the soul, the divide between the arts and sciences in Western culture, and scientific investigation of “human nature.” Framing the discussion with debates in the 1960s about the gap between science and humanism, it explores the ideas of Caltech psychobiologist Roger Sperry to illuminate a reaction against the molecularization of life and challenges to the intellectual nature of medical inquiry. It draws connections between neurological concepts of the divided brain and the idea that the fields of neurology and neurosurgery might unify what C.P. Snow characterized as the “two cultures” by redefining humanity and creating what Sperry called a “science of human values.”

Cover page of 'I, witness: The Grand Tour and the Georgian Lady of Letters

'I, witness: The Grand Tour and the Georgian Lady of Letters


While the status and lifestyles (if we can excuse that word) of English women may not have been the key feature of what has come to be characteristic of English culture in the Age of Enlightenment, this paper considers it something of an enigma as to why English women could not find happiness at home and wanted to leave their land to travel abroad. European women believed that continental travel had something to offer everyone—from climate to artistic culture—but if we focus on the opinions of women who were seeking political and intellectual enlightenment, European and British women saw in each other something they did not see in themselves. By examining the writings of eighteenth-century women travellers, this paper explores themes of identity, education, experience, and enlightenment.

Cover page of Cultural Relativism or Eurocentrism? A Historical Perspective

Cultural Relativism or Eurocentrism? A Historical Perspective


This paper explores how international identities have been historically treated which allows us to see how cultural relativity has grown to be part of the treatment of foreign, as well as one’s own, society. Whether referring to present concerns over human rights and environmentalism or historical concerns over imperial expansion, the distribution of disease, or rights to ‘citizenship,’ different nations have used cultural comparisons to distinguish the progressive society from the barbaric, the civilised from the uncivilised, the modern from the ‘traditional’ society. These categories, like all classification systems, have always had problematic boundaries. But through travel and the uses of Enlightenment ‘sciences of man’ to inspect foreign frontiers, strides were made to map the margins of the historical and scientific classification of populations—‘primitive’ or ‘enlightened,’ within a ‘European’ or ‘extra-European’ domain. This paper looks at eighteenth-century theories of European identity.

Cover page of Imperial Archives: French and British Museology from the 'Land of Lost Gods'

Imperial Archives: French and British Museology from the 'Land of Lost Gods'


This paper discusses some of the ways that museological activities in France and Britain (in the Louvre and the British Museum) were aligned with the human sciences to offer new commentaries about the development and maintenance of civilisation—both ancient and modern. During what I partly anachronistically refer to as the ‘revolutionary’ decades—the 1790s to the 1810s (a reference I stick to because it falls in the middle of Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘Age of Revolution’)—British and French commentators chose to represent ancient civilisation in such a way as to show that they were respectively the inheritors of the ancient principles of virtue, liberty, and democracy. Today, I sketch the apparent associations that were made between the civility of the ancients and the self-defined civility of modern imperial rulers, the missionaries of the civilising process of the rest of the world.