Rachel Elder

Rachel Elder's picture
Lecturer in the History of Science and Medicine
McClellan Hall Room 201
1037 Chapel Street
Research Areas: 
20th century medicine, health, and the body; history of technology; disability history; neurology; U.S. gender and sexuality


Rachel is a historian of medicine, technology, and American culture. She received her Ph.D. in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. Her current book project, Secrecy and Safety: A Cultural History of Seizures in Mid-Twentieth Century America, explores how epilepsy was managed in an era of rising yet unrealized expectations for medical control. The project traces broader themes of passing and invisible disability, as well as shifting categories of social membership, public safety, and bodily control. She is also working on a project that explores the clinical roots of neuroscience and the role of patients in constructing knowledge about the brain.

Rachel’s research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Mary Louise Nickerson Fellowship in Neuro History, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  Prior to her position at Yale, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the History and Social Studies of Medicine program at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She is the recipient of the 2017 Pressman-Burroughs Career Development Award from the American Association for the History of Medicine.


HSHM 487: Disability, Science, and Society; Tues. 1:30-3:20 (HIST479J)

HSHM 416: Engineering the Modern Body; Mon. 1:30-3:20 (HIST 414J)


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2015

M.A., University of Pennsylvania, 2011

M.A., University of Warwick, 2007

B.A., University of Guelph, 2006

Selected Publications

“Speaking Secrets: Epilepsy, Neurosurgery, and the Patient Testimony in the Age of the Explorable Brain, 1934-1960.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89.4 (Winter 2015). 761-789.

“Safe Seizures, Schoolyard Stoics, and the Making of Secure Citizens at the Detroit White School for Epileptic Children,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 7.3 (Fall 2014), 430-461.

“Chasing Whispers in the Neuro Archive.” Osler Library Newsletter. No. 117 (Fall 2012) 6-7.

With Catherine Carstairs. “Expertise, Health, and Popular Opinion: Debating Water Fluoridation, 1945-80.” The Canadian Historical Review 89.3 (Fall 2008). 344-371.