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The Evolution of Medicine

Donation creates the Pauline M.H. Mazumdar Chair in the History of Medicine

Medical education often focuses on the latest scientific advances, but a new chair in the Faculty of Arts and Science will support the study of illness and medical practice through history.

Professor Emerita Pauline Mazumdar and her husband, Dipak Mazumdar, have committed $3 million to create the Pauline M.H. Mazumdar Chair in the History of Medicine at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST). The centre’s director Paul Thompson says the chair will deepen the organization’s expertise in life sciences and raise its international profile. “This gift guarantees that the institute will play a key role in advancing our understanding of the origins and evolution of medicine, and in making its history available to students,” he says.

Trained as a medical doctor in England before shifting her focus to the history of medicine, Pauline Mazumdar taught in the Faculty of Arts and Science for 23 years. She retired from the IHPST in 1999, but continues to teach and supervise doctoral students. Dipak Mazumdar, an economist, is an adjunct professor affiliated with U of T’s Centre for International Studies.

Pauline believes her academic specialty has a unique and vital mandate. “The history of medicine allows students to explore political, cultural and technical history,” she says. “Owsei Temkin, a past W.H. Welch Chair in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, used to say that all eras are worth understanding for their own sake. I decided to fund a chair at U of T to perpetuate that ideal.”

Professor Pekka Sinervo, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, says the history of medicine is an important part of the university’s teaching and research endeavours. “This gift ensures that future generations of students will be able to engage in a crucial area of academic and social inquiry,” he says.

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