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Elliott Bowen


Ph.D., Binghamton University (2013)
M. A., History, New Mexico State University (2009)
B.A., History, SUNY Potsdam (2006)



Science, Technology, and Medicine
Modern United States 
Women, Gender, and Sexuality


Current Position

Adjunct Instructor, Le Moyne College



"Mecca of the American Syphilitic: Doctors, Patients, and Disease Identity in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1890-1940," 2013.

Adviser: Gerald Kutcher



An historian of medicine and public health in the modern United States, my current research project focuses on the central Arkansas city of Hot Springs, a place that was known throughout the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as the "Mecca of the American Syphilitic." Through their therapeutic journeys, the thousands of venereally-afflicted men and women who traveled to this southern health resort between the 1890s and 1930s helped craft a distinct and local identity for syphilis in Hot Springs, one whose existence sheds new light on American responses to VD in the pre-penicillin era. Often portrayed as a classic condition of the "other," in Hot Springs syphilis assumed the status of a "disease of civilization," a finding that prompts new questions about the role that race, gender, and sexuality – along with understandings of place and environment – played in the period's anti-venereal endeavors. Indeed, what emerges from this study of the "Mecca of the American Syphilitic" is not only a new narrative of the United States' venereal past, but also of the development of American medicine and public health between the emergence of the germ theory and the dawning of the antibiotic era.



"Limits of the Lab: Diagnosing 'Latent Gonorrhea,' 1872-1910," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 87:1 (Spring 2013).
"'Science v. Sin'? Rethinking American VD Control Efforts, 1880-1920" in Circulations of Religion and Medicine in North American Culture, ed. Kelly Bezio and Ashley Reed (in progress).

Fellowships, Awards, and Grants

Research Award, Society for the History of Medicine and the Health Professions, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (2012)
Dissertation Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Binghamton University (2012)
Dissertation Fellowship, History Department, Binghamton University (2012)
Dubofsky Award, Binghamton University (2011)



"How Intimately are Connected the Medical and Social Aspects: Oliver C. Wenger, the United States Public Health Service, and the Evolution of Venereal Disease Control Strategies in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1920-1936," 10th Annual Joint Atlantic Seminar for the History of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT, October 6, 2012.

"Mecca of the American Syphilitic: Doctors, Patients, and Disease Identity in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1890-1940," Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities 2012-13 Speakers' Series, Binghamton University, Vestal, NY, September 12, 2012.

"Afflictions of Affluence: Syphilis, Neurasthenia, and Disease Identity in Turn-of-the-Century Hot Springs, Arkansas," 14th Annual Conference of the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science, Atlanta, GA, March 2, 2012.

"Making the 'Mecca of the American Syphilitic': Medical Tourism, Syphilis, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1890-1930," 3rd Annual Conference on Medical Tourism, San Antonio, TX, February 14, 2012.

"Racial Morbidity Differentials in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States," 36th Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association, Boston, MA, November 20, 2011.

Last Updated: 11/1/17