Beth Linker

Beth Linker, PhD
  • Titles:
  • Department Chair, History and Sociology of Science
  • Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term Associate Professor in the Social Sciences
  • Professor, Medical Ethics & Health Policy
  • Education:
  • PhD, Department of History, Yale University
  • M.Phil., Program in the History of Medicine and Science, Yale University
  • M.A., Bioethics, Humanities, and Society, Michigan State University

Beth Linker is the Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term 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, disability, health care policy, and gender. She is the author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (Chicago, 2011) which went on to be featured in a Ric Burns documentary titled A Debt of Honor in 2015. Linker is also the 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 MedicineThe Boston GlobeThe Huffington PostThe Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and The American Journal of Public Health. 

Linker's most recent book, Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America (Princeton University Press, 2024), is a historical consideration of how poor posture became a dreaded pathology in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. By World War I, public health officials claimed that 80% of Americans suffered from postural abnormalities, setting into motion wellness programs and fitness initiatives intended to stem the slouching epidemic. What makes this epidemic unique is that, in the absence of a communicable contagion, it was largely driven by a cultural intolerance of disabled bodies, with more purist notions of ableness taking hold for much of the twentieth century. For this project, Linker has received grants from The American Council of Learned Societies, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Institutes of Health, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

In addition to her position in the Department of the History of Science, Linker is a core faculty member in Penn's Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. 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. In the spring of 2017, she was awarded the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the university's highest teaching honor. 

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