Dr. Thomas Schlich

Office: 3647 Peel St., Room 211
Phone: 398-2059
Email: thomas.schlich [at] mcgill.ca



Thomas Schlich is James McGill Professor  in History of Medicine at the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University. After working as a physician at the University Hospital in Marburg, Germany, he pursued his historical interests in different research and teaching positions in Cambridge, England, Stuttgart, Germany, and Freiburg, Germany. He held a Heisenberg Fellowship of the German Research Council (DFG) (2000-2002) and a Canada Research Chair (2002-2012).

Research Interests

History of modern medicine and science (18th-21st centuries), medicine and technology, surgery, body history.

Book project: "Controlled Intervention: The History of Modern Surgery, 1800-1914"

Research project, with Lawrence Rosenberg (Jewish General Hospital) and Nicholas Whitfield (SSoM), funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR): "Disrupting Surgical Practice: The Rise of Minimally Invasive Surgery, 1980-2000




A. Monographs

 2010 The Origins of Organ Transplantation: Surgery and Laboratory Science, 1880s-1930s, Rochester, NY: The University of Rochester Press 2010 (=Series Rochester Studies in Medical History) (revised and translated version of Die Erfindung der Organtransplantation).

2002 Surgery, Science and Industry: A Revolution in Fracture Care, 1950s-1990s, Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave (=Series Science, Technology and Medicine in Modern History).

1998 Die Erfindung der Organtransplantation: Erfolg und Scheitern des chirurgischen Organersatzes (1880-1930), Frankfurt on the Main: Campus, 385 pp.

1998 Transplantation: Geschichte, Medizin, Ethik der Organverpflanzung, Munich: C.H. Beck, 119 pp. (= Series C.H. Beck Wissen 2096).

1990 Marburger jüdische Chirurgie- und Medizinstudenten von 1800-1832. Herkunft - Berufsweg - Stellung in der Gesellschaf, Marburg: Elwert, 277 pp. (= Academia Marburgensis, vol. 6, ed. by the Philipps-University, Marburg).

B. Edited Volumes and Special Issues of Journals

2017 Technological Change in Modern Surgery: Historical Perspectives on Innovation, Thomas Schlich, Christopher Crenner (eds.), Rochester, NY: The University of Rochester Press, pp. 1-20.  

2015 The History of Skill in Medicine and Science, edited with Nicholas Whitfield. Special issue of Medical History, 59.

2009 Animals and Surgery, edited with Melanie Rock, Eric Mykhalovskiy. Special issue of Journal of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 31.

2009 The Institutions of Objectivity in Medicine, edited with Alberto Cambrosio, Peter Keating, George Weisz. Special issue of Social Studies of Science 39.

2006 The Risks of Medical Innovation: Risk Perception and Assessment in Historical Context, edited with Ulrich Tröhler. London and New York: Routledge (Studies in the Social History of Medicine).

2001 Hirntod. Zur Kulturgeschichte der Todesbestimmung, edited with Claudia Wiesemann. Frankfurt on the Main: Suhrkamp (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 1525), 345 pp.

1999 Strategien der Kausalität: Konzeptionen der Krankheitsverursachung im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, edited with Christoph Gradmann. Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus (Neuere Medizin und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Quellen und Studien), 275 pp.

1998 Medizingeschichte: Aufgaben, Probleme, Perspektiven, edited with Norbert Paul. Frankfurt on the Main: Campus, 382 pp.

1995 Neue Wege in der Seuchengeschichte, edited with Martin Dinges. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 251 pp. (Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte, Beiheft 6).

Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters

2017 Thomas Schlich, “Cleanliness and Order: The Gendered Role of Operating Room Nurses in the United States (1870s-1930s)” (with Audrey Hasegawa), Social History of Medicine. 30 (2017)

2017 “Physiological surgery: Laboratory Science as the Epistemic Basis of Modern Surgery and Neurosurgery”, in: Delia Gavrus, Stephen Casper (eds.), Technique, Technology and Therapy in the Mind and Brain Science (Rochester: The University of Rochester Press) (accepted for publication)    

2017 “Technological Change in Surgery: An Introductory Essay”, with Christopher Crenner (eds), in Technological Change in Modern Surgery: Historical Perspectives on Innovation, Rochester, NY: The University of Rochester Press) (forthcoming).

2016 “Patient Choice and the History of Minimally Invasive Surgery” (with Cynthia Tang), The Lancet vol 388 (Oct.1, 2016), 1369-1370.

2016 “Surgical Innovation and the Multiple Meanings of Randomized Controlled Trials: The first RCT on Minimally Invasive Cholecystectomy (1980-2000)”,  with Cynthia Tang , Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 71 (2016), online. 

2016 “One and the Same the World Over’ - The International Culture of Surgical Exchange in an Age of Globalization, 1870-1914”,  Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 171 (2016), pp. 247-270.

2015 “Why Were Surgical Gloves not Used Earlier? History of Medicine and Alternative Paths of Innovation”, The Lancet (2015), 1234-1235.

2015 “’The Days of Brilliancy are Past’: Skill, Styles and the Changing Rules of Surgical Performance, ca. 1820-1920”, Medical History 59 , pp. 379-403.

2015 “Skill Through History” with Nicholas Whitfield, , Medical History  59, pp. 349-360.

2015 “Cutting the Body to Cure the Mind. Surgery for Mental Disease”, The Lancet – Psychiatry 2, issue 5, pp. 390-392.

2013 "Railways, Industry and Surgery-The Introduction of Risk Management", New England Medical Journal 369, pp.1978-79.

2013 "Negotiating Technologies in Surgery: the Controversy about Surgical Gloves in 1890s," Bulletin for the  History of Medicine 87, pp.170-97.   

2013 "Farmer to Industrialist: Lister's Antispepsis and the Making of Modern Surgery in Germany", Notes and Records of the Royal Society 67 , pp. 245-260. 

2013 “Technologies of Control: The Recent History of Surgery”, in Bernardino Fantini, Louise Lambrichs (eds.), Histoire de la Pensée Médicale Contemporaine, Paris, Éditions Le Sueil.

2012 “Asepsis and Bacteriology: A realignment of Surgery and Laboratory Science”, Medical History 56, pp.308-343.

2012  (with Lawrence Rosenberg), “Twenty-first Century Surgery: Have we Entered Uncharted Waters?, Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons  97 (July 2012), pp.6-11.

2012 (with Lawrence Rosenberg) “Surgery: Down for the Count?”, Canadian Medical Association Journal 184, 4, p. 49

2011 “The Origins of Organ Transplantation”, The Lancet vol. 278 (October 15, 2011), pp. 1372-1373.

2010 "The Technological Fix and the Modern Body: Surgery as a Paradigmatic Case," in The Cultural History of the Human Body (ed. by Linda Kalof and William Bynum), vol. 6 "1920-present" (ed. by Ivan Crozier), London: Berg Publishers, pp.71-92.

2009 With Melanie Rock, Eric Mykhalovskiy: "Animals in Surgery – Surgery in Animals: Nature and Culture in Animal–Human Relations and Modern Surgery," History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 31, pp. 321-354.

2009 With Martina Schlünder: "The Emergence of ‘Implant-Pets’ and ‘Bone-Sheep’: Animals as New Biomedical Objects in Orthopedic Surgery (1960s-2010)," History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 31, pp. 433-466.

2009 “The Perfect Machine: Lorenz Böhler’s Rationalized Fracture Treatment in WWI”, Isis 100, pp. 758-791.

2009 With Alberto Cambrosio, Peter Keating, and George Weisz: “Biomedical conventions and regulatory objectivity: a few introductory remarks,” Social Studies of Science 39, pp. 651-664.

2008 "Ein Netzwerk von Kontrolltechnologien: Eine neue Perspektive auf die Entstehung der modernen Chirurgie." NTM Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 16, pp. 333-361.

2007 "Zeitgeschichte der Medizin: Herangehensweisen und Probleme." Medizinhistorisches Journal 42, pp.269-298.

2007 "Surgery, Science and Modernity: Operating Rooms and Laboratories as Spaces of Control." History of Science 45, pp. 231-256.

2007 With George Weisz, Alberto Cambrosio, Peter Keating, Loes Knaapen, and Virginie Tournay: “The Emergence of Clinical Practice Guidelines”, The Milbank Quarterly 85, pp. 691-727.

2007 "The Art and Science of Surgery: Innovation and Concepts of Medical Practice in Operative Fracture Care, 1960s-1970s." Science, Technology and Human Values 32, pp. 65-87.

2007 With Melanie Rock and Eric Mykhalowskiy, "People, Other Animals and Health Knowledges: Towards a Research Agenda." Social Science and Medicine 64, pp. 1970-1976.

2007 "Nobel Prizes for Surgeons: In Recognition of the Surgical Healing Strategy," International Journal of Surgery 5, pp. 129-133

2006 "Trauma Surgery and Traffic Policy in Germany in the 1930s: A Case Study in the Co-Evolution of Modern Surgery and Society." Bulletin for the History of Medicine 90, pp. 73-94.

2006 With Annmarie Adams, "Design for Control: Surgery, Science, and Space at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, 1893-1956." Medical History 50, pp. 303-324.

2006 With Alberto Cambrosio, Peter Keating and George Weisz, "Regulatory Objectivity and the Generation and Management of Evidence in Medicine". Social Science and Medicine 62, pp.189-199.

2006 “Risk and Medical Innovation: A Historical Perspective”. In Thomas Schlich and Ulrich Tröhler (Eds.), The Risks of Medical Innovation: Risk Perception and Assessment in Historical Context. London and New York: Routledge (Studies in the Social History of Medicine), pp.1-19.

2006 “Risk Assessment and Medical Authority in Operative Fracture Care in the 1960s and 1970s”. In Thomas Schlich and Ulrich Tröhler (Eds.), The Risks of Medical Innovation: Risk Perception and Assessment in Historical Context. London and New York: Routledge (Studies in the Social History of Medicine), pp. 170-186

2004 "Objectifying Uncertainty: History of Risk Concepts in Medicine", Topoi. An International Review of Philosophy 23: 211-217.

2004 "The Emergence of Modern Surgery". In Deborah Brunton (Ed.), Medicine Transformed: Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1800-1939. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 61-91.

2002 "Körper und Person. Kultur, Chirurgie und persönliche Identität", Zeitschrift für medizinische Ethik 48: 237-245.

2002 “Degrees of Control: The Spread of Operative Fracture Care with Metal Implants. A Comparative Perspective on Switzerland, East Germany and the USA, 1950s-1990s.” In Jenny Stanton (Ed.), Innovations in Health and Medicine: Diffusion and Resistance in the Twentieth Century. London: Routledge (Studies in the Social History of Medicine), pp. 106-25.

2000 Linking Cause and Disease in the Laboratory: Robert Koch's Method of Superimposing Visual and 'Functional' Representations of Bacteria, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 22: 71-88.

1999 "Ethik und Geschichte: Die Hirntoddebatte als Streit um die Vergangenheit". Ethik in der Medizin 11: 79-88.

1996 “Die Konstruktion der notwendigen Krankheitsursache: Wie die Medizin Krankheit beherrschen will.” In Cornelius Borck (Ed.), Anatomien medizinischen Wissens. Frankfurt on the Main, pp. 201-229 (= Reihe Philosophie der Gegenwart, Fischer Taschenbücher Wissenschaft).

1996 “‘Welche Macht über Tod und Leben!’ Die Etablierung der Bluttransfusion im Ersten Weltkrieg.” In Wolfgang U. Eckart, Christoph Gradmann (Eds.), Die Medizin und der Erste Weltkrieg. Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, pp. 111-130 (= Neuere Medizin- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Quellen und Studien, Bd. 3).

1995 “The Word of God and the Word of Science: the Jewish Dietary Laws and Nutrition Science in Germany 1820-1920.” In Clio Medica 22 (Harmke Kamminga, Andrew Cunningham (Eds.): The Culture and Science of Nutrition. 1840s-1940s. Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine, ed. by W.F. Bynum und Roy Porter), pp. 97-128.

1995 “How Gods and Saints Became Transplant Surgeons: the Scientific Article as a Model for the Writing of History.” In History of Science 33: 311-331.

1995 “Medicalization and Secularization: the Jewish Ritual Bath as a Problem of Hygiene (Germany, 1820s-1840s).” In Social History of Medicine 8: 423-442.

1994 “Changing Disease Identities: Cretinism, Politics and Surgery (1844-1892).” In Medical History 38: 421-443.

1993 “Making Mistakes in Science: Eduard Pflüger, His Scientific and Professional Concept of Physiology, and His Unsuccessful Theory of Diabetes (1903-1910).” In Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 24: 411-441.


Stay Connected