“Hybrid” Scholarly Societies

When I was attending a meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine some years ago, I heard an MD / PhD say that in AAHM “the doctors give the historians legitimacy and the historians give the doctors academic rigor”. Famed medical historian Henry Sigerist, MD put it another way in his 1950 Foreward to volume one of what he planned to be an eight volume history of medicine: “[A] difficulty is presented by the fact that [medical history] is addressed to historians as well as to physicians. This means that [a writer is] obliged to make statements that are obvious to historians but not to physicians, and vice versa. A history of medicine is always both, a medical book and a history book.”

These observations, I think, catch the essence of societies that welcome, value, and encourage the collaboration of both professional historians and practitioners of the art about which the history is being written. AAHM is both a medical society and a medical society. Another is the Society for Military History, where military people are the practicing professionals; it is a society that is both military and historical. The Society for the History of Navy Medicine is a triple hybrid, combining the interests of people who research and write about the history of medicine as it relates to a naval environment and to those who live in it.

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