Biological aging and social characteristics : gerontology, the Baltimore City Hospitals, and the National Institutes of Health
Park, Hyung Wook
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The intramural gerontological research program in the National Institutes of Health underwent a substantial growth after its creation within the precincts of the Baltimore City Hospitals in 1940. This paper analyzes its development and the associated problems of its early years. Gerontologists aimed at improving the social and economic life of the elderly through scientific research. With this aim in mind, they conducted various investigations using the indigent aged patients of the Baltimore City Hospitals. Yet the scientists of aging, who hoped to eliminate negative social factors that might bias their research and heighten the confusion between pathology and aging per se, eventually stopped using these patients in the hospital as human subjects. Instead they sought educated affluent subjects in order to eliminate the impact of poverty. By doing so, however, they introduced a new source of social bias to their work, especially within the novel project begun in 1958, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. This article thus examines the context of the development of gerontologists' research by analyzing their agenda, institutional environment, and research subjects in the 1940s and the 1950s.
Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences
© 2013 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. 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/10.1093/jhmas/jrr048].