photo of Bert Hansen Bert Hansen

History of science and medicine; American history

Phone: (646) 312-4310


Baruch College welcomed five physicians and health care workers from Pakistan to learn about U.S. health care practices and public health policy. They were welcomed by Bert Hansen, Ph.D., Professor of History in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, who presented a history of the polio vaccine and medical practices in the United States.

The CUNY-TV series "Science & U!", a show on science and food which aired on August 26, 2014, included a segment on beer. In a part of this segment, Bert Hansen commented on the importance of Louis Pasteur's fermentation research for human health as well as for improvements in brewing. This segment may be viewed check here.

In January 2014, Professor Hansen gave two video interviews at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in PhiladelphiaIn the shorter one, he explains the early discoveries that led to his book.

In the hour-long interview about science communication and the graphic arts more generally, he was joined by the artist, Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, author of Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb


Hansen final coverPicturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio is published by Rutgers University Press (352 pages with 22 color plates and 108 monochrome figures).  For table of contents, ordering information, reviews, extra images,  and ideas for teachers, please check here or go to the Rutgers Press website.

This book was reviewed in the New York Times and the Journal of the American Medical Association and was honored with two national awards.  It received the 2010 Ray and Pat Browne Award given by the Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association “for the best single-author book published in 2009,” and the book was rated "Outstanding" and selected for the "2010 Best of the Best from the University Presses for Public and Secondary School Libraries" by the American Library Association.

“Celebrating July 6” is a new opinion piece on a Medical Humanities blog at NYU.  Review here and look for July 6 entry.

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Bert Hansen, Professor of History at Baruch College of The City University of New York, teaches courses on American civilization and on the history of science and medicine.  He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Columbia and a Ph.D. in history of science from Princeton. His scholarly writings explore the uses and transformations of science and medicine both within the professions and in the wider public culture.

Trained as a medievalist, Hansen's early career examined the relations between natural sciences and magic from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century in "Science and Magic," a chapter in Science in the Middle Ages, edited by David C. Lindberg (Chicago, 1978); in Nicole Oresme and the Marvels of Nature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1985); and in "The Complementarity of Magic and Science Before the Scientific Revolution," American Scientist (March 1986).

After redirecting the focus of his research to the nineteenth century, he then explored the medical understanding of childbirth at the time just before this segment of general medical knowledge was transformed into a highly technical and esoteric specialization: "Medical Education in New York City in 1866-1867: A Student's Notebook of Professor Budd's Lectures on Obstetrics," New York State Journal of Medicine (August and September 1985).

The active dialogue between doctors and their patients was the subject of "American Physicians' 'Discovery' of Homosexuals, 1880-1900: A New Diagnosis in a Changing Society," in Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History edited by Charles E. Rosenberg and Janet L. Golden (1992).

For the American Journal of Public Health (November 1997), he examined a non-verbal dialogue in "The Image and Advocacy of Public Health in American Caricature and Cartoons from 1860 to 1900." More recently in the same journal, he published "Public Careers and Private Sexuality: Some Gay and Lesbian Lives in the History of Medicine and Public Health," AJPH (January 2002).

In April 1998, the American Historical Review published "America's First Medical Breakthrough: How Popular Excitement about a French Rabies Cure in 1885 Raised New Expectations of Medical Progress." A follow-up article appeared in December 1999 in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, "New Images of a New Medicine: Visual Evidence for Widespread Popularity of Therapeutic Discoveries in America after 1885."

Professor Hansen extended his examination of the images of medicine in popular culture into the mid-twentieth century with research on children's comic books that contained stories about medical history and medical science in "Medical History for the Masses: How American Comic Books Celebrated Heroes of Medicine in the 1940s," Bulletin of the History of Medicine (Spring 2004), and "True-Adventure Comic Books and American Popular Culture in the 1940s: An Annotated Research Bibliography of the Medical Heroes," The International Journal of Comic Art (Spring 2004).

Professor Hansen has a long-standing commitment to sharing specialized historical analysis with wider audiences. "The Complementarity of Magic and Science" was published in a general magazine for scientists in all fields. Later it was selected for reprinting as a model of expository prose in a college textbook, Good Writing: A Guide and Sourcebook for Writing Across the Curriculum by Linda Simon (St. Martin's Press, 1988). His article on obstetrics in the 1860s was honored with the Laurance D. Redway Award For Excellence in Medical Writing. His study of the first stage in the medicalization of homosexuality was included in an anthology of readings in medical history used in college and medical school courses, Sickness and Health in America edited by Judith Walzer Leavitt and Ronald L. Numbers, third edition (Wisconsin, 1997). "America's First Medical Breakthrough" was included in another teaching anthology, Major Problems in the History of American Medicine and Public Health: Documents and Essays edited by John Harley Warner and Janet A. Tighe (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

Hansen's first virtual publication appeared in December 2006 in an on-line quarterly journal for teachers, History Now, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  His article discusses "Medical Advances in Nineteenth-Century America" in a theme issue on Nineteenth-Century Technology.  For this issue, see History Now.

Professor Bert HansenOn April 19, 2005, at the Spring Gala of the American Pasteur Foundation at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, Dr. Hansen offered remarks on the history of Louis Pasteur's scientific studies of wine and their relations to an understanding of fermentation more generally and of their contribution to establishing the discipline of microbiology.  The Foundation's purpose is to raise funds for the Institut Pasteur in Paris.  (Additional information may be found at

President Clinton Bert Hansen and groupAt the gala, William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, received the Pasteur Foundation's 2005 Award for his exemplary work on behalf of developing nations and their fight against HIV/AIDS.   The award was presented by the Ambassador of France to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, and the Director General of the Institut Pasteur, Philippe Kourilsky .

President Bill ClintonThe award was a rare chromolithograph from 1886, a political cartoon illustrating Pasteur's celebrity for creating the rabies vaccine.  In this cartoon, civil service reform was portrayed as a kind of vaccine against corruption, and then-president Grover Cleveland was shown as Pasteur Cleveland vaccinating the government against the spoils of rabies.  This image, entitled  "Judge 's Wax Works – The Political Eden Musée," was discussed by Professor Hansen and illustrated in his 2009 book. 

(Pasteur Foundation photos: Joe Vericker/Photobureau)

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