When Lamb-to-Human Blood Transfusions Were All the Rage
From the New Books Network's Book of the Day Podcast
In the mid-1870s, the experimental therapy of lamb blood transfusion spread like an epidemic across Europe and the USA. Doctors tried it as a cure for tuberculosis, pellagra, and anemia; proposed it as a means to reanimate seemingly dead soldiers on the battlefield. It was a contested therapy because it meant crossing boundaries and challenging taboos. Was the transfusion of lamb blood into desperately sick humans really defensible?
In Strange Blood (Transcript Verlag, 2020), Boel Berner takes the reader on a journey into hospital wards and asylums, physiological laboratories and 19th-century wars. He presents a fascinating story of medical knowledge, ambitions, and concerns—a story that provides lessons for current debates on the morality of medical experimentation and care.
Boel Berner is a sociologist, historian, and professor emerita at Linköping University in Sweden. In her research she investigates the character and power of expertise, historically and today. She has studied education and work, the gendered nature of technical knowledge, household modernization, and issues of risk. Her current work is oriented towards the history of medicine. It focuses, besides questions of blood donation and transfusion, on the politics of blood group analysis in the interwar years.
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.