Marvels and Shadows: Science and Education at the University of Puerto Rico School of Tropical Medicine under the Auspices of Columbia University: An Introduction

Raúl Mayo-Santana, Silvia E. Rabionet, Lucy Peña-Carro, Adelfa E. Serrano


This essay introduces a series of five historical articles on the scientific and educational contributions of the University of Puerto Rico School of Tropical Medicine (STM), under the auspices of Columbia University (1926-1949), to the fields of tropical medicine and public health. The articles will appear in several consecutive issues, and will address various themes as follows: 1) historical antecedents of the STM, particularly institutional precedents; 2) the educational legacy of the STM; 3) a history of the STM scientific journal (“The Puerto Rico Journal of Public Health and Tropical Medicine”); 4) the scientific practices and representations that prevailed at the institution; and, 5) a brief sociocultural history of malaria in Puerto Rico, mainly from the perspective of the STM’s scientific and public health activities. The authors have systematically and comprehensively studied a wide variety of documents from different sources based on multiple archives in Puerto Rico, the United States and England. The authors treat the fluid meanings of the examined historical encounters from a research perspective that privilege complex reciprocal interactions, multiple adaptations and elaborate sociocultural constructs present in a collaborative exemplar of the modernity of medical science in a neocolonial tropical context.


Tropical medicine, public health, history of medicine, scientific modernity, science and education in Puerto Rico

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