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Science Studies Research Workshop: Joseph M. Gabriel, “Origins of a Legitimation Crisis: Medical Science, Private Profit, and the Challenge of Big Pharma”

March 29, 2017 @ 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

“Origins of a Legitimation Crisis: Medical Science, Private Profit, and the Challenge of Big Pharma”
Joseph M. Gabriel, Ph.D.

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, has recently suggested that as much as half of all published medical literature may be false. Horton is not alone in making such a claim: over the past two decades a growing number of influential critics from within the medical establishment have raised significant concerns about the evidentiary basis of contemporary medicine due, in part, to the allegedly negative influence of pharmaceutical companies on the scientific process.

In this talk Dr. Gabriel will present some preliminary thoughts on the origins of what he sees as a brewing legitimation crisis facing medical science. The roots of today’s concerns about the evidentiary basis of scientific medicine, he argues, can be found during the late nineteenth century, when a series of therapeutic reformers re-conceptualized the relationship between medical science and monopoly rights in drug manufacturing. In doing so, these reformers sought to legitimize the role of private profit in the production of scientific knowledge; unintentionally, they also cast in doubt the very possibility of an objective science free from motivated self-interest. Since then, he suggests, the tension between private profit as both a productive force and a source of skepticism has been generalized to such an extent that the very possibility of actionable scientific knowledge in the medical domain now seems threatened.

Joseph M. Gabriel is an Associate Professor at Florida State University, where he holds appointments in the Department of History and the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine at the College of Medicine. He is the author of Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and has published articles in journals such as the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, the Journal of the Glided Age and Progressive Era, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and International Journal of Health Services.


March 29, 2017
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Science Studies Research Workshop


545 Park Hall