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Fever and Form: Medical Theory and the Shape of the Nineteenth-Century City

Catherine Bonier

“The 2nd Division Hospital Corps, Camp Columbia, Havana, Cuba” / Russell Brothers (Anniston, Alabama) April, 1899 (Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library)

Bonier, C., “Fever and Form: Medical Theory and the Shape of the Nineteenth-Century City”
SARPH: Society for American City and Regional Planning History National Conference / Cleveland, Ohio, October 2017

Over the course of the 19th century, ideas about city form have developed within the context of medical theories of disease. Two moments bracket this period’s public health and urban planning approaches. By comparing the writings of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a prominent physician in Philadelphia during the yellow fever outbreaks of the 1790’s, and those of Dr. Walter Reed, the U.S. Army Major who confirmed the etiology of the fever in 1901, it is possible to trace the American evolution of urban environmental theory and urban morphology from a pre-modern idea of balanced improvement to the contemporary framework of invisible chemical remediation.

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