The pleasures and perils of prophetic advocacy: Henry E. Sigerist and the politics of medical reform.

E. Fee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Henry E. Sigerist, an internationally renowned medical historian, played a surprisingly important and visible role in American medical politics in the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Paris of Swiss parents, he was professor in Leipzig, Germany, before coming to the United States in 1932 as professor of the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Once in America. Sigerist became deeply involved in medical politics and the campaign for national health insurance. He argued that individualized medical practice was outdated and should gradually be superseded by state-run and state-financed health services. National health insurance was but one step in this historical progression. Sigerist thus lent the weight of history itself to the cause of medical care reform. The charming and erudite Sigerist was welcomed by the leaders of academic medicine in America. Soon, he emerged as a spokesman of the left wing of the medical profession, an effective and popular speaker and an impassioned advocate of socialized medicine. This paper traces Sigerist's political ideas and activities, and his contributions toward medical care reform in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1637-1647
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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