Limits of the lab: Diagnosing "latent gonorrhea," 1872-1910

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

One of the most heatedly contested disease entities in turn-of-thecentury medicine was "latent gonorrhea," a condition first discussed in an 1872 paper published by the German-born gynecologist Emil Noeggerath. Although none of the bacteriological discoveries of the next few decades-including the isolation of the gonococcus in 1879-provided much evidence of its existence, by the 1890s most Western physicians and medical scientists had nonetheless come to believe that latent gonorrhea was a real, diagnosable disease. While in the wake of its resolution, leading gynecologists contended that laboratory science had cleared up the controversy over latent gonorrhea, in reality it was through more "traditional" diagnostic methods (especially the taking of case histories) that Noeggerath's once-debatable theory gained acceptance. As such, this episode challenges the idea that turn-of-the-century Western medicine witnessed a "laboratory revolution," and that with the rise of bacteriology "the clinic" no longer informed the processes by which doctors defined and diagnosed disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-85
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Volume87
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Gonorrhea
Medicine
Bacteriology
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Physicians
Gonorrhoea

Keywords

  • Albert Neisser
  • Emil Noeggerath
  • Gynecology
  • Laboratory revolution
  • Latent gonorrhea
  • Patients
  • Scientific controversy
  • Venereal disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nursing(all)

Cite this

Limits of the lab : Diagnosing "latent gonorrhea," 1872-1910. / Bowen, Elliott.

In: Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol. 87, No. 1, 2013, p. 63-85.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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