Beth Linker

Beth Linker is an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science. Her research and teaching interests include the history of science and medicine, the body, health policy, and disability. She is the author of  War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (Chicago, 2011) and co-editor of Civil Disabilities: Citizenship, Membership, and Belonging (Penn Press, 2014). Her award-winning scholarship has also appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Boston Globe, The Huffington PostThe Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and The American Journal of Public Health. 

Linker’s next book, Slouch: The Rise and Fall of the American Posture Sciences, explores the rise of non-communicable epidemics in the twentieth century, using posture as a case study. For centuries, bodily comportment was a matter of etiquette and social mores. Not until the 19th century did posture become something to be measured, standardized, and pathologized. By the early 20th century, many experts believed that the nation was living through a poor posture epidemic that affected 80 percent of the population. The book demonstrates how the slouching epidemic gained scientific and cultural legitimacy among experts and the wider public, and how it would later serve as a model for explaining the prevalence of other non-contagious conditions, such as the obesity epidemic. Linker is also researching another book, Making the Cut: Surplus Surgery in America, a cultural and medical history of how and why the U.S. has had one of the highest surgical rates in the world.

Linker’s research has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. She has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, the Barbara Bates Center for the History of Nursing, and the Penn Humanities Forum.