Edmund Vincent Cowdry and the making of gerontology as a multidisciplinary scientific field in the United States
Park, Hyung Wook
Date of Issue2008
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The Canadian–American biologist Edmund Vincent Cowdry played an important role in the birth and development of the science of aging, gerontology. In particular, he contributed to the growth of gerontology as a multidisciplinary scientific field in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. With the support of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, he organized the first scientific conference on aging at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where scientists from various fields gathered to discuss aging as a scientific research topic. He also edited Problems of Ageing (1939), the first handbook on the current state of aging research, to which specialists from diverse disciplines contributed. The authors of this book eventually formed the Gerontological Society in 1945 as a multidisciplinary scientific organization, and some of its members, under Cowdry’s leadership, formed the International Association of Gerontology in 1950. This article historically traces this development by focusing on Cowdry’s ideas and activities. I argue that the social and economic turmoil during the Great Depression along with Cowdry’s training and experience as a biologist – cytologist in particular – and as a textbook editor became an important basis of his efforts to construct gerontology in this direction.
Journal of the history of biology
© 2008 Springer. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Journal of the History of Biology, Springer. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10739-008-9152-1].