Monday workshop
Monday, January 22, 2018 - 3:30pm

337 Claudia Cohen Hall

Sofia Grachova

Jewish Health, Medical Constitutionalism and Early Genetics in the USSR

The presentation addresses a little known period in the pre-history of Soviet medical genetics, exploring the discourse about the alleged peculiarities of Russian-Jewish population's physical and mental health in the 1920s and early 1930s. I particularly address the spread of the Mendelian theory of heredity, as well as theories of mental-physical constitutions, into medical thought, focusing on blood type research and the Russian "discovery" of Tay-Sachs disease, a genetic disorder with higher prevalence among Ashkenazic Jews. More than curiosities in the history of medicine, these themes reflect important issues in Jewish identity politics of the time, besides providing a new perspective on the dead ends and side alleys in the history of knowledge.