Rachel Elder, PH.D.

Rachel Elder, PH.D.

Department affiliations: 

Center for Social Medicine and the Humanities, UCLA
Postdoctoral Scholar-Fellow, 2015-16

Office address: 


Research interest: 

History of Medicine, Health, and the Body; History of Technology; Disability Studies; History of American Psychology and Neuroscience; U.S. Gender and Sexuality 

Mini biography: 

Rachel is a historian of technology, medicine, and American culture.  In 2015, she completed her Ph.D. in the History & Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where she took a particular interest in the study of epilepsy.  Her doctoral project, Secrecy and Safety: A Cultural History of Seizures in Mid-Twentieth Century America, explored new mandates for bodily control and the meaning of seizure susceptibility between 1930 and 1960.  Her continuing work on this subject examines themes of passing and invisible disability, shifting categories of social belonging, and varying forms of personal and public safety. Such queries have led her to debates about impaired driving, lightly chaperoned field trips, sex research on female orgasm, the unusual history of brainwaves, and not least, the relationship between epilepsy, neurosurgery, and meditations upon the nature of human consciousness.

As a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, Rachel furthered her research on the clinical roots of nascent neuroscience, motion sickness, and the history of men in nursing.  Her research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Mary Louise Nickerson Fellowship in Neuro History, Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


“Speaking Secrets: Epilepsy, Neurosurgery, and the Patient Testimony in the Age of the Explorable Brain, 1934-1960.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89.4 (Winter 2015). 761-789.

“Safe Seizures, Schoolyard Stoics, and the Making of Secure Citizens at the Detroit White School for Epileptic Children," Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 7.3 (Fall 2014), 430-461.

 “Chasing Whispers in the Neuro Archive.”  Osler Library Newsletter.  No. 117 (Fall 2012), 6-7.

With Catherine Carstairs. “Expertise, Health, and Popular Opinion: Debating Water Fluoridation, 1945-80.”  The Canadian Historical Review 89.3 (Fall 2008). 344-371.