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HUMSS - Alison M. Downham Moore

Prof. Dr. Alison M. Downham Moore
History of medicine
Western Sydney University, Australia

Medical Histories of Sexual Aging and the Discovery of Women’s Longevity
When Feb 03, 2020
from 11:15 AM to 12:30 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, Seminar room
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / Open to university members
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Medical Histories of Sexual Aging and the Discovery of Women’s Longevity

The larger project from which this paper draws concerns the global emergence of sex-specific concepts of aging in the history of medical thought from the late eighteenth century until recent times. This paper will focus on the most recent chapter to be added to the in-progress monograph on Sexual Aging in the History of Medicine, which concerns the medical discovery of women’s greater longevity, examining how this newly-identified scientific ‘fact’ was exchanged as a knowledge-unit across Swedish, French and English cultures, and how it was integrated into nineteenth-century medical and hygienic ideas about aging bodies. Late eighteenth-century European states converged on the need to centralise birth, death and marriage records, despite the risks this posed of making known to other states the number of possible military conscripts in the nation. The Swedish decree of 1736 was the earliest of such policies, resulting in the first comprehensive population data gathered by the vicar Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin in 1756. In 1817 a French Interior Ministry initiative likewise permitted the analysis of regional birth and death records, while the Scottish actuary John Finlaison proposed a radical revision of British budget calculations for military spousal pensions on the basis of the new emerging data suggesting that women were living longer than men. Curiously though, the growing recognition that women were not as fragile as had often been assumed correlated with an increasing tendency for doctors to pathologise menopause, often with explicit reference to their greater longevity.