During the Depression, silicosis, an industrial lung disease, emerged as a national social crisis. Experts estimated that hundreds of thousands of workers were at risk of disease, disability, and death by inhaling silica in mines, foundries, and quarries. By the 1950s, however, silicosis was nearly forgotten by the media and health professionals. Asking what makes a health threat a public issue, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz examine how a culture defines disease and how disease itself is understood at different moments in history. They also explore the interlocking relationships of public health, labor, business, and government to discuss who should assume responsibility for occupational disease.
“If there is a paradigmatic tale of occupational health . . . Deadly Dust
—James L. Weeks, Science
“Rosner and Markowitz have produced a carefully crafted history of the rise and fall of this occupational disease, focusing especially on the political forces behind changing disease definitions. . . Deadly Dust
comes as a fresh breeze into one of the more stuffy and too often ignored alleys of medical history.”
—Robert N. Proctor, The Journal of the American Medical Association
“A thought-provoking, densely referenced, uncompromising history. . . Like all good history, it challenges our basic assumptions about how the world is ordered and offers both factual information and a conceptual framework for rethinking what we ‘know’.”
—Rosemary K. Sokas, The New England Journal of Medicine
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raises an important methodological problem that has long gone underarticulated in medical historical circles: how can social historians of medicine offer political or economic explanations for the scientific efforts of their professional subjects without losing a grip on the biological aspects of disease?”
—Christopher Sellers, The Journal of the History of Medicine
"A sophisticated understanding of how class and conflict shape social, economic, political, and intellectual change underlies this first attempt at a history of occupational health spanning the twentieth century."
—Claudia Clark, The Journal of American History
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"This volume is well worth reading as a significant contribution to American social history."
—Charles O. Jackson, The American Historical Review
is Distinguished Professor of History and Sociomedical Sciences, and Director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Columbia University.
is Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.