Gianna Pomata

Professor,
Institute of the History of Medicine

The Johns Hopkins University

Gianna Pomata was educated and trained in Italy, but for the last twenty five years her professional life as a historian has been divided almost equally between Europe and the United States. Before coming to Hopkins in 2007, she taught for many years at the Universities of Bologna and Minnesota. her research interests include early modern European social and cultural history, with a main focus on the history of medicine. Most recently, she worked on the history of scientific observation, with particular attention to medical case narratives and their role in the rise of scientific empiricism.  She has  written on the early modern genre of historia and its significance in medicine and anatomy. I have also studied concepts and rules of evidence as they developed at the intersection of early modern medicine and religion (the role of physicians in assessing miraculous evidence in canonization proceedings). She has contributed to the history of the healer/patient relationship by reconstructing the long-forgotten custom of contractual agreements between practitioners and patients.

She is currently at work on a book project, A Science of Individuals: the Case History in Pre-Modern European Medicine. She studies the development of the medical case history in a long-term perspective by tracing its antecedents in ancient Greek, medieval European and medieval Arabic medicine. In a cross-cultural perspective, She compares the early-modern European collections of case narratives with the case collections that developed in early modern Chinese medicine. This project combines her long-standing engagement with the history of the doctor/patient relationship with her more recent interest in individualized medicine.

She also has a strong interest in women’s history, gender history, and the history of the body, to which she has contributed with various essays on women healers and women patients, the history of menstruation and lactation, concepts of sexual difference in early modern medicine, the cult of holy bodies and relics. Her most recent publication in this field is a critical edition and translation of Oliva Sabuco’s The True Medicine, one of the very few medical works published under a woman’s name in early modern Europe.