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Heggie, Vanessa

Higher and Colder

A History of Extreme Physiology and Exploration


    58,95 € / $67.50 / £53.50*

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    Publication Date:
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    To be published:
    September 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    During the long twentieth century, explorers went in unprecedented numbers to the hottest, coldest, and highest points on the globe. Taking us from the Himalaya to Antarctica and beyond, Higher and Colder presents the first history of extreme physiology, the study of the human body at its physical limits. Each chapter explores a seminal question in the history of science, while also showing how the apparently exotic locations and experiments contributed to broader political and social shifts in twentieth-century scientific thinking.

    Unlike most books on modern biomedicine, Higher and Colder focuses on fieldwork, expeditions, and exploration, and in doing so provides a welcome alternative to laboratory-dominated accounts of the history of modern life sciences. Though centered on male-dominated practices—science and exploration—it recovers the stories of women’s contributions that were sometimes accidentally, and sometimes deliberately, erased. Engaging and provocative, this book is a history of the scientists and physiologists who face challenges that are physically demanding, frequently dangerous, and sometimes fatal, in the interest of advancing modern science and pushing the boundaries of human ability.


    264 pages
    13 halftones
    Professional and scholarly;

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    Vanessa Heggie is a lecturer in the history of medicine and science at the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of A History of British Sports Medicine and was coauthor of the Guardian blog The H-Word from 2012 to 2017.


    “Vanessa Heggie brings to vivid life the history of the sciences of human survival at its limits. Higher and Colder offers a bold and persuasive interpretation of exploration as a scientific practice in the twentieth century, when Mount Everest and the polar regions became natural laboratories for physiological experiments, racial ideologies, gender hierarchies, indigenous technologies, and everyday practices of exploration. Elegantly written, it provides a welcome historical perspective on the biomedical research that has saved the lives of thousands of hikers and mountaineers.”
    — Peter Hansen, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

    "I love this book. With its focus on biomedical research in extreme environments, Higher and Colder shows how twentieth-century expeditions—to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Himalayas—are stranger than we thought. This story of exploration plays out on ice caps and mountaintops, but also in places not often sketched on the expeditionary map: inside barometric chambers, scientific outposts, and medical laboratories. Heggie examines the tangible and visceral aspects of expeditionary work—blood, food, clothing, equipment—in order to challenge our basic assumptions about the history of expeditionary science: that we know what it is and how it gets done."
    — Michael Robinson, University of Hartford

    “This book is a valuable resource. The topics have been thoroughly researched, and the documentation in notes at the end of the book is meticulous. Impressively, even with the depth of its detail, the book is a pleasure to read. Strongly recommended.”
    — John West, University of California, San Diego

    "A gripping and revelatory story of the physiologists who went to extremes in the twentieth century as they charted the parameters of human performance in some of the globe’s most inhospitable places. Heggie revealshow theseresearchers trekked to the tops of mountains and the earth’s icy poles, curious less about these extraordinary environments than the inner workings of human physiology. The world was their laboratory.Higher and Colderlikewise explores thecomplexcolonial, military,cultural, and politicalterrain that framed thisstyle ofexpeditionary biomedicalscience. The bookmakes a significant contribution to the history of the field sciences, environmental history, and the history of twentieth-century medicine."
    — Sarah W. Tracy, Edith Kinney Gaylord Presidential Professor, University of Oklahoma

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