VIRTUAL LECTURE - Depression: Medical Science and Medical Humanities

Color Head Shot of Jonathan Sadowsky
September 15, 2020, 4:30 PM

Click HERE to watch the video.

Someone close to you is likely taking an antidepressant. In 2017 the World Health Organization named depressive disorders as the leading cause of illness and disability in the world. And yet, the definition of depression as illness, distinct from normal sadness, is still debated. How did we get here?  This presentation explores the history of this ravaging but perplexing illness. Is it truly so widespread, or simply over-diagnosed? Is it a feature of modernity, or an illness known since antiquity? Is it found everywhere, or is it limited to certain cultural settings? Is depression mainly an emotional problem with physical expressions, or mainly a physical problem with emotional expressions? But the history of depression is not only about questions. It is also a history of hard-won knowledge, about causes and treatments—knowledge that that can provide hope and relief to suffering people. The presentation will also argue that much of our accumulated knowledge of the social and cultural dimensions of depression is on surer ground than our knowledge of its biology. 

This lecture is presented by Jonathan Sadowsky, Theodore J. Castele Professor in the Department of History and recipient of the 2020 Baker-Nord Center Award for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities, which recognizes the outstanding scholarship of Case Western Reserve University faculty in the Humanities and their contribution to the University’s reputation.

Due to social distancing requirements, this lecture will be presented virtually.  It will be hosted at

Click HERE for Professor Sadowsky's Faculty Page.