Assistant professor of science and religion at Harvard Divinity School to speak at Visual Arts Center Friday, Nov. 7


AhmedRagabDr. Ahmed Ragab, the Richard T. Watson assistant professor of science and religion at Harvard  Divinity School, will speak at  the Visual Arts Center in downtown Huntington at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7.

Ragab will be the guest speaker at the 5th annual da Vinci Lecture, sponsored by the Honors College and the Office of the Provost.  Ragab’s talk,  “From Plague to Ebola: The Social Life of Epidemics and the Making of Global Health,” is free to the public.

“This talk will address the ‘social making of epidemics;’ how societies were and are affected by academics, what makes a particular infectious disease an epidemic, how governments, authorities and different societies responded to epidemics throughout history,” Ragab said.

Throughout history, Ragab said, epidemics struck society’s high rates of mortality, debilitating morbidity and the ability to spread rapidly across borders and boundaries. Epidemics interrupted social lives, imposed significant pressures on populations, economies and governments, and put pressure on global cooperation and international organizations, he said.

“Epidemics also tested the limits of medical innovation, the ability to provide and distribute treatments and the effectiveness of public health measures and institutions,” Ragab said.

“The talk will investigate the development of quarantines, their meaning in medical and public health literature, and their cost and importance at social and political levels,” Ragab said. “In exploring the history of epidemics and quarantines, the talk explores the making of global health policies, priorities and institutions and how they developed through debates, negotiations and conflicts surrounding such events.”

Ragab joined Harvard Divinity School in July 2011 as the Richard T. Watson assistant professor of science and religion. He is a physician, historian and scholar of the medieval and modern Middle East, with a medical degree from Cairo University and a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science from the Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes in Paris.

“I find this topic to be very timely,” said Dr. Nicki LoCascio, interim dean of the Honors College. “Putting the current Ebola concerns into context with how other disease outbreaks were addressed by political and cultural settings is important. Dr. Ragab will show us what we know and can learn from prior epidemics. Given his numerous accolades and accomplishments it is an honor to have Dr. Ragab speak at Marshall University.”

Ragab’s work includes the history and development of medieval Islamic sciences, the relationship between science and religion in the medieval and modern Middle East, the history of medieval Islamic hospitals, and the intellectual and cultural history of women in the region.

He has completed monographic studies of institutionalization and modernization in medieval and early modern science and medicine within Islamic cultures, and he writes on contemporary questions at the foundations of science, religion and culture. Ragab is also the author of numerous articles and book sections and papers. His book, Al-Qawl al-Sarih fi ilm al-Tashrih: Anatomy, medicine and religion in the Ottoman Middle East, is an edition of a rare manuscript on anatomy from eighteenth-century Ottoman Egypt.

He is currently completing two book projects:  A Biography of a Hospital: Medicine, Religion and Charity in the Medieval Middle East, which is a study of the medieval Islamic hospital; and, In the Name of God the Healer: Prophetic Medicine in the Medieval and Modern Middle East, a study of the development of prophetic medicine from the medieval to the contemporary period. Ragab is also working on a research project on perceptions of bodies, genders, and sexualities in medical, religious, and cultural views in the Islamic world.