In the mid-1870s, the experimental therapy of lamb blood transfusion spread like an epidemic across Europe and the USA. Doctors tried it as a cure for tuberculosis, pellagra and anemia; proposed it as a means to reanimate seemingly dead soldiers on the battlefield. It was a contested therapy because it meant crossing boundaries and challenging taboos. Was the transfusion of lamb blood into desperately sick humans really defensible?
Boel Berner, Strange Blood: The Rise and Fall of Lamb Blood Transfusion in 19th Century Medicine and Beyond (Transcript Verlag, 2020) takes the reader on a journey into hospital wards and lunatic asylums, physiological laboratories and 19th century wars. It presents a fascinating story of medical knowledge, ambitions and concerns – a story that provides lessons for current debates on the morality of medical experimentation and care.
Boel Berner is a sociologist, historian, and professor emerita at Linköping University in Sweden. In her research she investigates the character and power of expertise, historically and today. She has studied education and work, the gendered nature of technical knowledge, household modernization, and issues of risk. Her current work is oriented towards the history of medicine. It focuses, besides questions of blood donation and transfusion, on the politics of blood group analysis in the interwar years.
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. She teaches and writes about health behavior in historical context.