Measured Breath: A Short History of Asthma
Carla Keirns
Forthcoming from John Hopkins University Press

Asthma is often represented as a new epidemic disease rooted in modern social conditions. This book explores the origins and many meanings of asthma, recasting the modern problem of asthma as both an ancient and a changing illness. Despite a series of putative mechanisms—based on many of the most important changes in medical theory and practice, such as nerves, germs, immunity, psychoanalysis, and genetics—asthma has remained fundamentally a clinical category most useful in diagnosis and treatment of the individual patient. Asthma&rquo;s status as a clinical problem with varied and sometimes uncertain causes and the persistence of customized medical treatment has frustrated repeated efforts to define the disease and standardize its treatment. From the health–seekers in the mountains of Switzerland and Colorado in the 19th century to social movements in urban Detroit, Harlem, and Roxbury, Massachusetts, the story of asthma is first and foremost about people working to change their environments and their bodies' responses to them.

This project has received supported from:

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program
  • the National Center for Minority Health & Health Disparities
  • Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University Provo, Utah
  • Johnson & Johnson Fellowship in Children’s Health, Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey
  • American Institute for the History of Pharmacy, Madison, Wisconsin
  • John J. Pisano Grant for Research in NIH History Dewitt Stetten Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Francis C. Wood Institute Research Grant, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania