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The Truth Within: Making Medical Knowledge in the Hay Fever Association of Heligoland, 1899–1909

Ylva Söderfeldt
Published: 1 September 2021
 in Isis
Isis , Volume 112, pp 531-547;

Abstract: Around 1900, hay fever was a contested illness, mostly unknown among physicians or believed to be neurotic in nature. Motivated by a desire to gather and disseminate knowledge about their enigmatic ailment, hay fever sufferers organized to form the Hay Fever Association of Heligoland. The organization’s annual reports combined news from the latest medical science with observations of the illness as experienced by the members of the association. While employing observational practices derived from scientific settings in recording and documenting their suffering, the organized hay fever patients also used subjective experience to challenge the results from professional medical scientists. This struggle between scientific and embodied knowledge sheds new light on the emergence of patient advocacy.
Keywords: hay fever / scientific / illness / Heligoland / sufferers / Fever Association / medical / knowledge

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