Call for Papers

Is This the End?

The Eclipse of the Therapeutic Revolution October 4-6, 2012, University of Zurich, Switzerland


The Institute and Museum of the History of Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland will host the final conference of the European Science Foundation’s research network “DRUGS”. The conference will be held from October 4-6, 2012 in Zurich in conjunction with the Competence Centre for the History of Knowledge (ETH Zurich and University of Zurich).


Confirmed Speakers:

Wenzel Geissler, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine/ University of Oslo Jeremy Greene, History of Science, Harvard University Julie Livingston, History, Rutgers University Scott Podolsky, Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School Viviane Quirk, History of Medicine, Oxford Brookes University


“DRUGS” is a Research Networking Programme of the European Science Foundation. It analyses processes of standardization in the development, regulation, marketing and use of modern pharmaceuticals. The main research focus is on the five decades between 1930 and 1980. One of the central research hypotheses of the program is a historiographic argument about the so-called “therapeutic revolution”. This development may be characterised by the following conjuncture: a dynamic and innovative pharmaceutical industry; a demanding and receptive environment in medicine, public health and society; and third party social security payment systems. The invention and dissemination of important classes of drugs, such as beta-blockers, modern psychoactive drugs or antibiotics, fall into this period of economic growth, and so does the related emergence of important medical concepts such as the risk factor.


While a substantial amount of research has addressed single drug trajectories and the conditions and traditions from which the therapeutic revolution emerged, less is known about the end of the so-called “Golden Age”. The conference will pursue broader methodological and historiographical questions about the aftermath of the therapeutic revolution in the timespan from 1970 to the present, its implications for medical and public health practice, its inherent contradictions and predicaments, as well as its end(s). We especially welcome research addressing the repercussions of the demise of the “Golden Age” on concepts of health, illness and disease, as well as treatment practices; the (re)introduction of politics of difference in pharmaceutical research through patient activism; the social and cultural productivity of drugs; clinical trials in a global situation, the ethics of research as well as questions of biological citizenship; microbial and political resistances.


Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers.


Possible topics might include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

•             Beyond the Therapeutic Revolution

                                After the Golden Age

                                Drugs for Life: risk, prevention, and chronicity


•             Global Health and Pharmaceutical Humanitarianism

                                Bioethics of/in clinical trials

                                Political economy of drugs


•             Politics of Difference in Pharmaceutical Research

                                Gendered medicine

                                Standards and norms


•             Resistances?

                                Drug Biographies

                                Patient Activism


The deadline for proposals is March 31, 2012.


Please submit your proposal of up to 500 words via email to [email protected].

Further details and announcements will be posted on the dedicated conference website on

Further information on the research network can be found on


Travel grants available.


Local organising Committee

•             Prof. Dr. Flurin Condrau (chair)

•             Betina  Siegle-Antunes (administration)

•             Dr. Sandra Eder

•             Niklaus  Ingold, M.A.

•             Janina  Kehr, M.A.

•             Katharina  Weikl, M.A.


Scientific Committee

•             Prof. Christian Bonah, Département de l’Histoire des Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France

•             Prof. Christoph Gradmann, Institute of Health and Society, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

•             Prof. Jakob Tanner, Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, University of Zurich, Switzerland

•             Dr. Carsten Timmermann, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester, United Kingdom