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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


The Children’s Hatchery: On the Nonhuman Origins of Neonatology

The Children's Hatchery: On the Nonhuman Origins of Neonatology

Megan Glick • Wesleyan University

November 12 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

While the existence of gestational forms has been the object of centuries-old debate, the cultivation of biomedical knowledge surrounding fetal and infant life is a much more recent phenomenon. What little has been written on the history of neonatology dates its emergence to the successful implementation of premature infant incubators during the 1920s and 1930s, when the extension of viable life was made possible by long-awaited technological innovation. This lecture contextualizes the rise of neonatal specialization in a different manner, through the interlocking disciplines of nineteenth-century evolutionary science, including embryology, comparative anatomy, and paleontology. In doing so, the lecture examines how the category of “infancy” was shaped by attitudes toward non-human speciation, pre-human morphology, and unclassifiable fossil records—influences that have continued to produce ambiguous understandings of infant vitality even into the twenty-first century.

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