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Dr Caitjan Gainty

Dr Caitjan Gainty

Dr Caitjan GaintyLecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 7661
1E Chesham Building
Department of History
King's College London
London, WC2R 2LS

Caitjan Gainty works on the twentieth century history of medicine and science in the US and abroad. She received her BA from Wellesley College, an MPH in health law and bioethics from Boston University, and her PhD in history from the University of Chicago. She is working with other scholars as a research associate at the University of Chicago on a project dealing with the history of science films, and recently completed a yearlong fellowship at the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin, where she worked on a project considering the current and recent past of the relationship between media, medicine and the American public. Her book project investigates the peripatetic history of the concept of efficiency as it developed within the context of American medicine, strongly influencing medicine’s structure, meaning and the constitution of medical care over the course of the twentieth century. In addition to her work on media and medicine, other, smaller projects focus on a comparative (US/UK) history of instructional and entertainment films of childbirth and on the aesthetics of science in post World War II American life. She has worked extensively with medical practitioners and philosophers on issues in bioethics and has been a part of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s clinical medical ethics community since 2008.
Research interests and PhD supervision
  • History of medicine
  • American 20th century cultural history
  • History of film
  • Bioethics, Health Law and the Medical Humanities
  • Technology and Culture
Caitjan Gainty’s research interests lie in the history of film, medicine, science and American culture, and in the structure and constitution of medical systems both historical and current. Her work falls partially into the category of health policy, though taken from a historical perspective. She is also interested in the history of medical performance and surgical simulation and modelling, medical aesthetics, the culture of patient-hood, and the conjoined recent histories of bioethics and the medical humanities. She has done work on the peculiar history of resuscitation in the US and UK and has worked with medical practitioners on questions concerning the constitution and reconstitution of life and death as medical/cultural concepts through history to today. In addition to these topics, she is interested in the history of the natural world and the relationship between technology and culture and would be particularly pleased to work with students whose projects transgress traditional disciplinary, thematic, topical, and methodological lines.

For more details, please see her full research profile.

Selected publications
  • “Going after the High-Brows:” Frank Gilbreth and the Surgical Subject, 1912-1917. Representations 2012: 118: 1-27.
  • (with Geoffrey Rees and Daniel Brauner), Never a Simple Choice:  Claude S. Beck and the Definitional Surplus in Decision Making about CPR Medicine Studies (Forthcoming, 2013).
  • (with Geoffrey Rees and Daniel Brauner) History Matters: A Response to “Reviving the Conversation Around DNR/CPR” American Journal of Bioethics 2010: 10(1): 76-7.
For a complete list of publications, please see Caitjan's full research profile.

Dr Gainty lectures in the history department on a wide variety of topics in the history of science, medicine and technology. Currently she offers courses on the history of the natural world from the 1800's and on the history of film, science and medicine; she has taught also on the history of American culture, technology and medicine, on the history of cardiac arrest and the heart, and on the history of medical media. Her teaching interests extend also to the history of bioethics and the medical humanities, American health law and international human rights, and the history of scientific and medical models, simulations and performances. In teaching, Dr Gainty focuses extensively on primary sources, including film, image, text, architectural sources, and seeks whenever possible to augment these sources with visits to sites of biomedical research and care and other locations appropriate to the course topic. She encourages students to actively take part in discussion and to seek out their own connections to surrounding medical and scientific communities.

Expertise and Public Engagement
Dr Gainty has been extensively involved in the University of Chicago’s Motion Pictures in the Human Sciences project, which attempts to restore and recover film and to vitalize the study of film as an area of interest for historians of science as well as to medicine and to make these films more accessible to the public more generally. She has also been an active interlocutor in discussions about bioethics – its history, its decision-making processes, as well as its function as a medical area of expertise – in the United States. Other public engagement work has stemmed from her interest in the history of media, medicine and culture, spawning an interest in understanding the relationship between perceptions of medical care and efficacy as these circulate and feed back among practitioners, the media, the public, often constituting a process of medical 'fact-making'. With physician Daniel Brauner, she has started a fledgling project dedicated to exploring these issues, with an online presence:
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