Professor Emeritus of History

Baruch College of CUNY

BA in chemistry, Columbia, 1965
PhD in history, Princeton, 1974.

My teaching career was at SUNY-Binghamton (1974-79, later renamed Binghamton University), University of Toronto (1979-84), New York University (1985-88), and Baruch College of the City University of New York (1991-2015).

I held three research fellowships: Mellon Faculty Fellow, Harvard University, 1978-79; Member, Institute for Advanced Study, 1984-85; and Visitor, Institute for Advanced Study, 1997.

Background.  I was raised in Chicago, where I was able to take four years of Latin in a public high school. I came East to attend Columbia College, where I majored in chemistry, and followed this with graduate school at Princeton University, earning the Ph.D. in history and history of science. From the mid-1960s to the mid-80s, my primary area of research was science in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

A new research focus.  During a year of residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1984-85, I began active research in American medicine and public health of the 19th and 20th centuries, which I had been teaching since 1974. This new focus included the pursuit of contemporary images as a neglected form of evidence about the social history of science,  medicine, and public health--especially about how these fields were regarded by a wider public.  After publishing Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio in 2009, my scholarship expanded from demonstrating the wide impact of Pasteur's rabies breakthrough on public attitudes to uncovering the substantial, but un-examined place of the fine arts in Pasteurs life and career.

Making collected materials available.  Teaching, research, writing, and lecturing have continued even after I retired from teaching.  Along with this scholarship, I have been donating personal materials to libraries and archives.  These include diverse prints and artifacts collected over decades of research in medical history plus a personal archive consisting of correspondence, records of organizations in which I participated, and documents from my time as a gay activist in 1970s and then in the AIDS movement of the 1980s.  Over time these voluminous materials will all join the collection of gay and lesbian lives being curated at Manuscripts and Archives of Yale University.  The Bert Hansen Papers are ms. 2042 with collection description and a pdf finding aid for materials already transferred.  Other donations have included scientific instruments and printed materials to the Science History Institute, books and historical manuscripts to the New York Academy of Medicine, audio-visual materials to the National Library of Medicine, early comic books to Columbia University, Fordham University, Michigan State University, and Yale School of Medicine.  Yale’s Cushing/Whitney Medical Library receiving the largest group of materials, antique prints illustrating medical history, with collection description and a pdf finding aid.

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