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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2017/18 Prof. Dr. Anne Harrington

Prof. Dr. Anne Harrington

Harvard University
History of science and medicine
External Senior Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt-Fellowship)
April - August 2018

Room 02 012
Phone +49 (0)761 203-97713
Fax +49 (0)761 203-97451

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Anne Harrington is the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science and Director of Undergraduate Studies. She is also Faculty Dean of Pforzheimer House, a residential position involving oversight of 400 Harvard College undergraduates.

Professor Harrington received her Ph.D. in the History of Science from Oxford University, and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London, and the University of Freiburg in Germany. For six years, she co-directed Harvard's Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. She also was a consultant for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mind-Body Interaction, and also served for 12 years on the Board of the Mind and Life Institute, dedicated to cross-cultural exchange and collaboration between the sciences and various contemplative traditions. She was also a founding co-editor of Biosocieties, a journal concerned with social science approaches to the life sciences.

She is the author of three books: Medicine, Mind and the Double Brain (1987), Reenchanted Science (1997) and The Cure Within; A History of Mind-Body Medicine (2007), with a fourth soon to appear, The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry: What Really Happened (in press). She has also published many articles and produced a range of edited collections including The Placebo Effect (1997), Visions of Compassion (2000), and The Dalai Lama at MIT (2006). Other research interests include relations between religion and medicine, interdisciplinary relations between the science and the humanities, and first person experiences of brain disorder.

Selected Publications

  • Prayer versus Placebo: Some Diagnostic Reflections as a Preliminary to a Prescriptive Agenda,” Spiritual Healing: Science, Meaning, and Discernment, ed. Sarah Coakley, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming
  • “Mother Love and Mental Illness: An Emotional History,” Osiris, 2016, 31: 1–22
  • *“Zen, Suzuki, and the Art of Psychotherapy,” Science and Religion: East and West, ed. Yiftach J.H. Fehige, New York: Routledge, 2016, pp. 48-69.
  • “Hypnosis and meditation: what about trance? Hypnosis and meditation: Towards an integrative science of conscious planes, eds. Michael Lifshitz and Amir Raz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 19-30.
  • "When mindfulness is therapy: Ethical qualms, historical perspectives" [with J.Dunne] American Psychologist 70.7 (2015): 621-631.
  • “The Fall of the Schizophrenogenic Mother: Do we Really Know the Story?” The Lancet, 379  nr. 9823 (April, 2012) : 1292 – 1293.

FRIAS Project

Almost a Miracle: Narratives of Human Healing from the Medical Archive at Lourdes

At FRIAS, Professor Harrington will be investigating a unique medical archive of some 7,000 cases of alleged healing miracles stored at Medical Bureau of the Catholic healing shrine of Lourdes, France.  Her project aims to look beyond the usual focus on the “miracles” of Lourdes, and ask new and largely neglected questions about the far larger human, interpersonal, and institutional world of the cases of “almost miracles” that are archived in dossiers held at  a special investigatory Bureau at this pilgrimage site. Something led those thousands of “other” patients over the years to knock on the door of the Medical Bureau and report their remarkable, if perhaps not quite “miraculous” stories. What was it? What do such patients – ordinary people from all sorts of walks of life – experience at Lourdes? What kinds of experiences lead them to go to the authorities? What kinds of relationships then develop between such patients and the doctors who investigate their cases? What happens when a patient is told that his or her case does not pass muster? What happens, alternatively, when the Bureau believes it has a potential miracle on its hands? What is it like for a patient to be a candidate miraculé? It is my contention that answers to questions like these have a great deal to teach us about experiences of suffering, hope, fear, faith, skepticism, and wonder in modern times.