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Sex, Sin, and Science: A History of Syphilis in America (Healing Society: Disease, Medicine, and History) Hardcover – July 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0275994303 ISBN-10: 0275994309

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Product Details

  • Series: Healing Society: Disease, Medicine, and History
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (July 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275994309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275994303
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,064,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A wise adage directs readers not to judge a book by its cover. The same can be said for a title and an alluring dust jacket. . . . This is a book written by an eminent professional for the serious-minded. Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners."



"Parascandola's history of syphilis is compelling from the beginning."


CDC's "Emerging Infectious Diseases"

"Parascandola provides a useful overview of the political and cultural factors that shaped the history of syphilis and the American public's response to it. His goal was to produce a history for the general reader, and this nicely written book, with its fascinating illustrations, should attract a wide audience."


The Journal of American History

"…interesting and informative account of multiple discourses regarding sexually transmitted diseases. . . . Sex, Sin, and SyphiliS≪/i> is compelling, interesting, and informative. It is both scholarly and accessible to the general reader. And it is timely, in light of a current rise in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases."


Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"This book contains enough information -- both charming and thought-provoking -- to aerate any lecture. . . . Well worth the price of admission is Parascandola's discussion of the Tuskegee experiment. . . . That section provides one of the most powerful discussions I've read on exploring the context of medicine to extrapolate meaning. Likewise, Parascandola does an excellent job of exploring the problems of syphilis infection after the development of antibiotics."


Journal of Social History

Book Description

This book traces the history of syphilis and efforts to control the disease in the United States, from Colonial times to the present.

More About the Author

John Parascandola received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Brooklyn College. He then earned an M.S. degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. (1968) in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After spending a postdoctoral year at Harvard University, Dr. Parascandola returned to Madison to join the Wisconsin faculty in history of science and history of pharmacy. From 1974-1981 he also served as Director of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. In 1983, he entered on a career of over 20 years of Federal service, first as Chief of the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, and then in 1992 as Public Health Service Historian, a position from which he retired in 2004. Since then, he has taught courses in the history of modern biology, the history of public health, and the history of poisons for the University of Maryland College Park and has worked as an historical consultant.
Dr. Parascandola's research interests have focused largely on the history of modern biomedical science, the history of pharmacology and drug therapy, and the history of public health in America. He is the author of The Development of American Pharmacology: John J. Abel and the Shaping of a Discipline (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), which received the Urdang Medal is 1994. He is also the author of Sex, Sin and Science: A History of Syphilis in America (Praeger Publishers, 2008), which received the George Pendleton Prize for 2008, and King of Poisons: A History of Arsenic (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2012). Dr. Parascandola has been active in several professional organizations, including serving as President of the American Association for the History of Medicine (2006-2008). His honors include: the Sidney M. Edelstein Award for Outstanding Achievement in the History of Chemistry (2002); the Surgeon General's Medallion, the highest honor awarded by the U. S. Surgeon General (2004); and a Citation of Merit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2005).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on May 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
John Parascandola, former historian of the Public Health Service, and a veteran of several other public historian positions in the federal government, received the George Pendleton Prize for 2009 for this book, and the award was well deserved. "Sex, Sin, and Science: A History of Syphilis in America," published by Praeger of the Greenwood Publishing Group, is a seminal work. In it the author presents a fascinating account of how social and cultural factors, in addition to medical ones, helped to shape the way we understand and react to diseases, especially one so publicly charged as syphilis.

In this example--because of its association with sexual promiscuity--social, cultural, moral, and religious factors loom large in its history. As Parascandola shows, syphilis as a disease illustrates the ways in which non-medical factors influence our views of a disease and our reaction to it. He offers a fascinating perspective on the tendency to focus blame for the spread of a disease on particular marginalized groups in America. He discusses the delicate balance between protecting the rights of individuals and furthering the health of the public. These are manifest in numerous ways; right to privacy versus public awareness are central to this concern but are complicated by the hesitancy of Americans to discuss venereal disease openly because it also involves a discussion of sex.

"Sex, Sin, and Science: A History of Syphilis in America" is a valuable and even-handed work by a veteran scholar of medicine that should help inform public policy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By AJG on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after having read No Magic Bullet. However, I feel that it contains much of the same information and wasn't fully necessary to purchase (especially for 40 dollars). It's not very well written either. If you want a good history of syphilis and gonorrhea in America, find Brandt's book. This one somewhat paled in comparison.
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