Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Johns Hopkins University
Website URL
gender, history of medicine, sexuality, popular medicine, history of the body, books and reading
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Mary E. Fissell is Professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University, with appointments in the History of Science and the History Departments. She received her BA and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, where she wrote her dissertation in the History and Sociology Department under the direction of Charles Rosenberg. She coedits the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and is Director of the Online Program in the History of Medicine at Hopkins.

Her scholarly work focuses on how ordinary people in early modern England understood health, healing, and the natural world. Her first book examined how health care for the poor functioned in an 18th century British city, arguing that Bristol’s working people shaped an urban health-care system through the choices they made — limited those those choices may have been. More recently, she has focused on how ordinary people understood their bodies, particularly reproduction, by looking at cheap print. Vernacular Bodies (Oxford, 2004) explored how everyday ideas about making babies mediated large scale social changes, because talking about the reproductive female body was also a way to talk about gender relations and thus all relations of power. Her current work continues to examine vernacular knowledge — ideas about the natural world that ordinary people used, made, shaped, and practiced. She connects the histories of gender, the body, and sexuality with those of popular culture and cheap print in the Atlantic world in a project focusing on an extraordinary popular medical book called Aristotle’s Masterpiece. First published in 1684, it became wildly popular in Britain and America, and was still for sale in sleazy London sex shops in the 1930s, having retained its currency for over 2 centuries.


Recent Publications

“Introduction: Women, Health, and Healing in Early Modern Europe”, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82 (Spring 2008): 1-17.

“The Doctor-Patient Relationship”, Robert Baker and Lawrence McCullough, eds.,  The Cambridge History of Medical Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2009): 501-17.

“Healing Spaces”, in Laura Lunger Knoppers, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2010).

“Going Vernacular”, Journal of Women’s History, 22 (3), (2010): 209-213.

“Popular Medical Books”, Joad Raymond, ed. Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, vol 1: Beginnings to 1660, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011): 418-431.

“A Book of Receipts of All Sorts: Elizabeth Strachey, 1693-1730s”, in Michael Sappol, ed, Hidden Treasure, (New York: Blast Books, 2012): 204-5.

“Women and Medicine.” in Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation, Ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

“Remaking the Maternal Body in England, 1680–1730”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 2017, 114-139.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
United Kingdom
Expertise by Chronology
3, 4, 6
Expertise by Topic
Book History, Gender, Medicine, Sexuality, Women