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Dartmouth Medical School
Hanover, NH
"Death and Diversity in Civil War Medicine"
September 25, 2015

Margaret Humphreys, MD, PhD

A specialist in the history of science and medicine, Dr. Humphreys has focused her research and publications primarily on infectious disease in the U.S. and the American south, as well as the history of medicine during the American Civil War. Dr. Humphreys has also published on the history of diabetes, public health ethics, and colonial medicine. Her research has appeared in Isis, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Literature and Medicine, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Social Science and Medicine, Public Health Reports and Environmental History. Of special note are her books Yellow Fever and the South (Rutgers University Press, 1992), Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), Intensely Human: The Health of Black Soldiers in the American Civil War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), and, most recently, Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).  In addition to her own research, she was editor in chief of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences from 1999-2012.


Dr. Humphreys is an active member ot the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), and of  The Society of Civil War Historians.  She serves on the Advisory Board of the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM).












Columbia University Medical Center, Lecture on “African Americans in Civil War Medicine”
May, 2017 (Columbia UMC)
September, 2017 (South Carolina) November, 2017 (Florida)
January, 2018  (Duke University)

Recent and Upcoming Events

Oxford University, Lectures
Oxford, England
June, 2017


Role of MD’s in prisoner of war camps during the Civil War. During the Civil War 56,000 soldiers died in prisoner of war camps, a toll that brought accusations of barbarism from contemporaries.  Treatment of the prisoners went to the heart of national identity as one measure of the moral, civilized, and Christian character of the warring parties. Camp physicians and medical inspectors were at the center of this conflict, for their duty was, in fact, to give “aid and comfort to the enemy,” the constitutional definition of treason. This project will explore the intricacies of the prisoner’s status within political debates during the war, and the role of physicians in mediating and explicating the prisoner’s condition.

Biography of  Dr. J.D. Harris (1833-1884).  Harris was a black surgeon who served in the American Civil War.  Born in NC to free black working class parents, he had a remarkable career.  He published poetry in the mid-1850s, served the Anti-Slavery Society in Cleveland in the late 1850s, signed John Brown’s “Constitution,” and urged American blacks to emigrate to Haiti.  He published a book promoting Haitian emigration in the early 1860s.  After medical training and service in the Civil War, he married a white woman in 1868 and ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 1869 (lost).  He served as a physician in a South Carolina mental asylum in the early 1870s, practiced in the Howard University teaching hospital for a couple of years, and then was admitted to a mental hospital in DC, where he died in 1886. The biography will explore issues of free black opportunity pre-war, self-identity as mulatto/colored, ways in which emigration plans answered the increasing anti-black violence of the 1850s, blacks in medicine in reconstruction, and finally the place of an educated physician in a black asylum in the 1870s and 1880s—pre-Freud, pre-eugenics, post-emancipation.

China Residency Fellowship, and lecture series, on Social History of American Medicine
Shanghai University and
Shaanxi Normal University

July, 2017
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