25 Books to Read Before You Die

Recently Viewed clear list

The Powell's Playlist | August 6, 2014

Graham Joyce: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Graham Joyce

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is set on the English coast in the hot summer of 1976, so the music in this playlist is pretty much all from the... Continue »
  1. $17.47 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

Qualifying orders ship free.
New Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
5 Local Warehouse Health and Medicine- Medical Specialties
25 Remote Warehouse Health and Medicine- History of Medicine

Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics


Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the antebellum South, plantation physicians used a new medical device—the spirometer—to show that lung volume and therefore vital capacity were supposedly less in black slaves than in white citizens. At the end of the Civil War, a large study of racial difference employing the spirometer appeared to confirm the finding, which was then applied to argue that slaves were unfit for freedom. What is astonishing is that this example of racial thinking is anything but a historical relic.

In Breathing Race into the Machine, science studies scholar Lundy Braun traces the little-known history of the spirometer to reveal the social and scientific processes by which medical instruments have worked to naturalize racial and ethnic differences, from Victorian Britain to today. Routinely a factor in clinical diagnoses, preemployment physicals, and disability estimates, spirometers are often “race corrected,” typically reducing normal values for African Americans by 15 percent.

An unsettling account of the pernicious effects of racial thinking that divides people along genetic lines, Breathing Race into the Machine helps us understand how race enters into science and shapes medical research and practice.

About the Author

Lundy Braun is Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence, professor of medical science and Africana studies, and a member of the Science and Technology Studies Program at Brown University.

Table of Contents



Introduction: Measuring Vital Capacity

1. “Inventing” the Spirometer: Working-Class Bodies in Victorian England

2. Black Lungs and White Lungs: The Science of White Supremacy in the Nineteenth-Century United States

3. Filling the Lungs with Air: The Rise of Physical Culture in America

4. Progress and Race: Vitality in Turn-of-the-Century Britain

5. Globalizing Spirometry: The “Racial Factor” in Scientific Medicine

6. Adjudicating Disability in the Industrial Worker

7. Diagnosing Silicosis: Physiological Testing in South African Gold Mines

Epilogue: How Race Takes Root



Product Details

Braun, Lundy
University of Minnesota Press
Ethnic Studies-Immigration
Health and Medicine-Medical Specialties
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
9 x 6 x 1.5 in

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Architecture » Drafting
Arts and Entertainment » Architecture » Drawing and Design
Engineering » Engineering » History
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Professional Medical Reference
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration

Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$24.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages University of Minnesota Press - English 9780816683574 Reviews:
  • back to top
Follow us on...

Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.