In 1972, the American public learned that the United States government let hundreds of black men go untreated for syphilis as part of a research experiment.
The memory of the shocking Tuskegee syphilis study, conducted by the US Public Health Service, endures, especially in African-American communities.
That study was on the mind of Londa Schiebinger, a professor of the history of science at Stanford University, when she stumbled upon archives documenting a British doctor’s smallpox experiments on 850 slaves in 18th-century rural Jamaica.
Schiebinger embarked on a mission to learn how medical knowledge was created in the British and French colonies during that time and whether large populations of slaves underwent medical testing. She reports her findings in her new book Secret Cures of Slaves: People, Plants, and Medicine in the 18th-century Atlantic World (Stanford University Press, 2017).
Here, Schiebinger discusses her research:
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