Podcast Episode 23 – Telephony and Hearing Loss in Interwar Britain

Disability History Association Podcast – Episode 23 (September 2020): Telephony and Hearing Loss in Interwar Britain

Coreen McGuire (Durham University) discusses her award-winning work on technology and the categorization of disability.

Download mp3 file here.
Download pdf transcript here.

Coreen references the following two images in her interview. The first image shows a mosaic of health-related posters. One poster, for example, is an advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes featuring Santa Claus. Another poster shows a shirtless man flexing his muscles, and the text reads “Healthy Looks Can Hide Tuberculosis.” The second image zooms in on a particular poster. This poster has white text on a red background. The text repeats the words “I can’t breathe” twelve times. On the final line, the text fades away during the word “can’t.”

Coreen McGuire completed her PhD on the measurement of hearing loss in the British Telephone System at the University of Leeds in 2016. Following this, she took up a postdoctoral position at the University of Bristol, where she developed her research by exploring the measurement of respiratory disability as part of the Life of Breath Project. She has had six original articles published in peer-reviewed journals, contributed a spotlight piece for The Lancet, written two policy papers, and completed a monograph with Manchester University Press on the measurement of hearing loss and breathlessness. Its recent publication is a significant contribution to the history of medicine, science and technology studies, and disability history. One reviewer of the manuscript wrote: Measuring Difference, Numbering Normal ‘is deeply and imaginatively researched’ and ‘makes compelling connections between hearing and breathing, while emphasizing historical contingency in the interwar period, the biology and social context of the two, and the relationship between standardization, measurement, and disability’. Her first article in the British Journal of the History of Science was co-authored with Dr Jaipreet Virdi and discussed British scientist Dr Phyllis Kerridge’s contributions to science in Britain. Their collaboration has since developed into a full monograph project on Kerridge which has been put under contract with Johns Hopkins Press for publication in 2023. Coreen has won several notable awards, including the Scottish History Society Alasdair Ross Prize for archival research and the Disability History Association prize for outstanding article or book chapter. She will take up a three-year Lectureship in Twentieth-Century British history at Durham University in September 2020.