History Department
History Department

Alyssa Peterson


History PhD, UT Austin

M.A., Eastern Illinois University; B.A., Indiana University
Alyssa Peterson

Contact

Interests


Eighteenth-Century Atlantic History, Environmental History, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM), Disaster Studies, Environment and Earthquakes, Early Modern Disease and Medical Theory

Biography


I'm a fourth-year PhD student with a focus on Atlantic and Environmental history, as well as the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM). I study the Atlantic world, from roughly 1600 to 1800, and study the circulation and transformation of information throughout the greater Atlantic.

More specifically, I study the intersection of these histories and how information regarding medicine and disease flowed throughout the Atlantic. What medical information spread around the Atlantic and why? Was there some information that was more important than others? Was the information different within empires (British, Spanish, and French) than it was between empires? Was there a transformation, or a creolization, of medical knowledge in the New World? Who spread the information and who counted as a legitimate source? Was knowledge of drugs or procedures circulated as well, and if not, why? How did the local environment impact how medicine was practiced, understood, and studied? These are just some of the questions I hope to explore within my research.

Currently, I'm interested in how early modern physicians in the Caribbean understood earthquakes as directly impacting their health and how these theories changed throughout the eighteenth century. I'm interested in how these theories were then spread (or not) throughout the greater Atlantic world, especially to places where earthquakes were far less common. I'm currently researching earthquakes in Jamaica and New England. My research so far show that frequent experiences of earthquakes, and the transformation and localization of geological and medical theories, combined to create a regionally-specific model of earthquake-produced illness.

Within my larger project, I'm also interested in how physicians within the New World localized medical information arriving from Europe. Physicians like South Carolina’s David Ramsay often recommended locally-derived medicines alongside imported drugs, demonstrating both an increasing reliance on the local environment and a more homegrown interpretation of larger medical theories.

I received my M.A. in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2016, where I focused on the medical backgrounds and experiences of physicians in Philadelphia during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic with my thesis “'We live in the midst of death:' Medical theory, public health, and the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic," which won EIU's Hamand Graduate Writing Award for Best Graduate Paper in 2015 and was later published in the University's online historical journal, Historia.

 

 

Conferences & Presentations


“Bitter Knowledge: The Localization and Embodiment of the Environment in Early South Carolina Medicine,” Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program (CLAW) Port Cities in the Atlantic Conference, Charleston, SC, May 2020 (Cancelled due to COVID-19).


“And the Vapours at that time belcht forth from the Earth into the Air”: Geology and Illness in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic,” Midwest Junto for the History of Science, Ames, IA, April 2020 (Cancelled due to COVID-19).


“Bitter Knowledge: The Localization and Embodiment of the Environment in Early Medicine,” Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science Conference, New Orleans, LA, March 2020.


“'Quinquina': Obtaining, Importing, and Using the French Miracle Drug,” Midwest Junto for the History of Science, Kansas City, MO, April 2019.


“'We live in the midst of death:' Medical theory and the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic,” Poster, North Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Washington, D.C., November 2016.


“Four Hundred Meters from Stagnation: How Geographical Limitations Shaped the Movement of Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever in 1793,” Poster, American Association for the History of Medicine, Minneapolis, MN, April 2016.


“'We live in the midst of death:' Medical theory, public health, and the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” Newberry Graduate Student Conference, Jan. 28-30, 2016.


"Remnants of the Revolutionary War: The New 'American' Medicine," Daughters of the American Revolution, Mattoon, IL, public presentation, January 21, 2016.


“’Water, earth, and air infected’: How Movement, Quarantines, and Geographical Limitations Shaped the Movement of Yellow Fever in 1793,” Northern Illinois University Graduate Student Conference, DeKalb, IL, November 4, 2015.

Fellowships, Grants, & Awards


Linda Hall Library History of Science and Medicine Fellowship, 2020-2021.
New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, 2020-2021.
Waring Library Society’s W. Curtis Worthington Essay Prize, 2020.
UT Austin Graduate School Professional Development Award, April 2020.
Port Cities Conference Travel Award, May 2020 (Cancelled due to COVID-19).
Eastern Illinois University History Distinguished Graduate Student Award, 2016.
Eastern Illinois University Hamand Graduate Writing Award, Best Graduate Paper, 2015.
The Newberry Library, Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grant, February 2015 & January 2016.
Eastern Illinois University Williams Travel Grant, 2015.

Publications


Review of Church, Christopher M. Paradise Destroyed: Catastrophe and Citizenship in the French Caribbean. H-Environment, H-Net Reviews. October, 2020.

“’Water, earth, and air infected’: How Movement, Quarantines, and Geographical
Limitations Shaped the Movement of Yellow Fever in 1793,” Historia 25 (2016): 20-34.