Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine

In 1929, a group of medical students approached the Chair of Medicine, Dr. Cyrus Sturgis, with an idea to launch a student-led organization dedicated to the extracurricular study of the history of medicine.  With Dr. Sturgis’s assistance, these students established the Victor Vaughan Student Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine, named for the long-serving dean of the Medical School.

For the next fifty years, members were invited from the senior class.  During the Society’s first decades, students and faculty mentors presented lengthy papers at the monthly meetings, all preserved in bound volumes now housed in the University library. The format changed in 1980 to include presentations by students or faculty members interested in the history of medicine.  The monthly meetings have included student papers, invited speakers, and sessions on literature and medicine. Members have visited the Medical Rare Book Room at the Taubman Health Sciences Library, the Bentley Historical Library, the William L. Clements Library, and other campus locations rich in medical history.

In 2003 the society found a permanent home at the Center for the History of Medicine, which is located in the historic Simpson Memorial Institute on Observatory Street. The first director of the Simpson Institute was Dr. Cyrus Sturgis, whose named library is located on the first floor of the Simpson building, so history and the Society truly have come full circle.

In 2019, several student members expressed concern over the name of the Society.  In particular, students were uncomfortable with Victor Vaughan’s support of eugenics and his role as president of the Michigan State Board of Health and his support for the state’s 1913 forced sterilization law.  In response, a meeting of the Society was convened to discuss changing the name of the organization.  Members voted, and the name was changed to the Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine.

All students, faculty, residents, and others interested in the history of medicine are welcome to attend the monthly meetings. Dr. Howard Markel is the faculty advisor, and Hannah Carter and Johan Lee are the student co-presidents for 2019-2020 academic year. For more information, contact the Center at 734-647-6914, or e-mail Hannah at

Upcoming Meetings for the Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine

February 11, 2020

Title: Quarantine and the Coronavirus

Speaker: Dr. Howard Markel

Location: 2813 MSII

Time: Noon – 1:00 pm



March 19, 2020

Title: Parasitic Empires: Biological, Literary, and Political Constructions of Parasitism in Anglo-American Imperial Discourse

Speaker: Bassam F. Sidiki, MA, PhD Candidate in English

Location: 2813 MSII

Time: Noon – 1:00 pm

April 23, 2020

Title: Women at Michigan Medicine

Speaker: Dr. Laura Hirshbein

Location: 5000 THSL

Time: Noon – 1:00 pm

May [TBD], 2020

Title: TBD

Speaker: Hannah Carter

Location: TBD

Time: Noon – 1:oo pm

June [TBD], 2020

Title: A Discussion of Medical Epistemology

Speaker: Johan Lee

Location: TBD

Time: Noon – 1:00 pm