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‘Wilhelm His’ human embryo, 1874’

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History of evolution and medicine

The relationship between evolution and medicine has been fraught from its beginning. Evolution was seen as knowledge that threatened the political and religious order, yet well into the nineteenth century medical schools—the bastions of conservativism but also the chief home to natural sciences—were the first sites to offer education in evolution to students and, occasionally, non-university audiences. Yet from around the turn of the twentieth century evolution has been by and large absent from medical schools and medicine, only to begin to forge a closer relationship in the 1990s. The project studies the reasons behind the long-standing divide and the current rapprochement, and uses the historical study to ask what role could evolutionary knowledge play in modern medicine.