Soaking up the rays forges a new path for exploring Britain’s fickle love of the light by investigating the beginnings of light therapy in the country from c.1890-1940. Despite rapidly becoming a leading treatment for tuberculosis, rickets and other infections and skin diseases, light therapy was a contentious medical practice. Bodily exposure to light, whether for therapeutic or aesthetic ends, persists as a contested subject to this day: recommended to counter psoriasis and other skin conditions as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression; closely linked to notions of beauty, happiness and well-being, fuelling tourism to sunny locales abroad and the tanning industry at home; and yet with repeated health warnings that it is a dangerous carcinogen. By analysing archival photographs, illustrated medical texts, advertisements, lamps, and goggles and their visual representation of how light acted upon the body, Woloshyn assesses their complicated contribution to the founding of light therapy. Soaking up the rays will appeal to those intrigued by medicine’s visual culture, especially academics and students of the histories of art and visual culture, material cultures, medicine, science and technology, and popular culture.
looked to influential scholars of art history and visual culture, especially
those with interests in the history of medicine and the medicalhumanities. 57
Championing visual approaches to enrich our understanding of medicine, as
Jordanova has called for, Soaking Up the Rays urges scholars with an
interest in medical history to pay closer attention to its visual culture.
Nina Jablonski, Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of
Skin Color ( Berkeley, Calif. :
University of California Press, 2012); Roberta Bivins, ‘ Ideology and
Disease Identity: The Politics of Rickets, 1929–1982 ’,
MedicalHumanities , 40:1 (2014), 3–10. On race and
photography, see Tanya Sheehan, Doctored: The Medicine of Photography
in Nineteenth-Century America
22 September 1923, pp. 499–503, at p. 502–3.
Reyn, ‘Discussion’, p. 502.
See Tania Woloshyn, ‘ Patients Rebuilt: Dr Auguste
Rollier’s Heliotherapeutic Portraits, c . 1903–1944 ’,
MedicalHumanities , 39:1 (2013), 38–46. Rollier insisted, in
both the English and French versions
‘ Patients Rebuilt: Dr Auguste Rollier’s Heliotherapeutic
Portraits, c . 1903–1944 ’, MedicalHumanities , 39:1
(2013), 38–46; on the London Hospital, see Anne Kinloch Jamieson, ‘An
Intolerable Affliction: A History of Lupus Vulgaris in Late Nineteenth-
and Early Twentieth-Century Britain’ (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Leeds, 2010), p. 51; and on Treloar’s, see William Treloar