Beth Linker is Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science, where she is also Graduate Chair. She received her Ph.D. from Yale and worked as a clinician before her doctoral training in history. Her research and teaching interests include the cultural and social history of modern medicine and science, specifically in critical disability studies, gender, body techniques, and surgery as a techno-curative practice. She is the author of two books, War’s Waste (Chicago, 2011) and Civil Disabilities (Penn Press, 2014). Her award-winning scholarship has also appeared in The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and The American Journal of Public Health. Her future book projects include Slouch: The Rise and Fall of American Posture Sciences and Making the Cut: Surplus Surgery in America.
Penn Humanities Forum Faculty Fellow
2016—2017 Forum on Translation
Associate Professor, Department of the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
The American Slouch: Human Posture, Visual Translation, and the Science of Inscribing the Body onto Paper
My project on the history of the “American Slouch” investigates the practice of inscribing the living, dynamic, three-dimensional human body onto two-dimensional paper by looking at the work of Dr. Clelia D. Mosher (1863-1940) and her posture recording device known as the schematograph. This case study will examine how tracings of the human body got imbued with meaning, becoming a form of data that public health officials employed to make America’s epidemic of slouching bodies recognizable and knowable. By tracing the continued use of schematography (and later photography) in America’s schools, military, and clinics, this project demonstrates the centrality of body inscription practices—and their visual translations—to the success of wide variety of posture health campaigns up to the present day.