Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term Associate Professor

Office: 322 Claudia Cohen Hall
Mon: 11am-12noon Wed: 3:15-4:00pm



CV (url)

Beth Linker is the Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science. Her research and teaching interests include the history of science and medicine, disability, healthy policy, and gender. She is the author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (Chicago, 2011) which went on to be featured in a Ric Burns documentary titled A Debt of Honor in 2015. Linker is also the co-editor of Civil Disabilities: Citizenship, Membership, and Belonging (Penn Press, 2014). Her award-winning scholarship has also appeared in The New England Journal of MedicineThe Boston GlobeThe Huffington PostThe Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and The American Journal of Public Health. 

Linker's next book, Slouch: Fearing the Disabled Body, is a historical consideration of how poor posture became a dreaded pathology in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. By World War I, public health officials claimed that 80% of Americans suffered from postural abnormalities, setting into motion wellness programs and fitness initiatives intended to stem the slouching epidemic. What makes this epidemic unique is that, in the absence of a communicable contagion, it was largely driven by a cultural intolerance of disabled bodies, with more purist notions of ableness taking hold for much of the twentieth century. For this project, Linker has received grants from The American Council of Learned Societies, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Institutes of Health, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

In addition to her position in the Department of the History of Science, Linker is a core faculty member in Penn's Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. She has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, the Barbara Bates Center for the History of Nursing, and the Penn Humanities Forum. In the spring of 2017, she was awarded the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the university's highest teaching honor. 

Research Interests

Social and cultural history of U.S. medicine and surgery in the 19th and 20th centuries, disability history, war studies, gender studies, as well as the history of bioethics, sexuality, and health care policy.

Selected Work


Associate Fellow in the Center for Bioethics

Core Faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Graduate Group, Department of History

Graduate Group, School of Nursing

Teaching Fields

History of medicine, the body, surgery, and disability
American health policy
Public Health
Gender and health
History and sociology of medicalization

Courses Taught

HSOC 002: Medicine in History
HSOC 042: Snip and Tuck
HSOC 216: Gender and Health
HSSC 505: HSS Seminar

Faculty Bookshelf