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Light therapy and visual culture in Britain, c. 1890–1940

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.

Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

( Plate 1 ), the image conflates natural and artificial exposures, collapsing the distinction between experiences. These include the different outputs of sunshine versus the mercury vapour bulb (the latter considerably higher in ultraviolet radiation), the physical spaces of dark interior versus sunlit exterior, as well as erasing the technological mediation of goggles and electric components required for artificial exposures

in Soaking up the rays
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

to the individual patient. This is the focus of Section II . Despite being latent, variable, and unique to each patient, practitioners spent enormous time and energy trying to standardise erythema production so as to ‘dose’ ultraviolet radiation safely and effectively. This tension between standardisation and individualisation, the hallmarks of biomedicine and holism respectively, lay at the heart of a struggle to control and legitimise light

in Soaking up the rays
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

-century Britain. 8 Like electricity, artificially produced ultraviolet radiation required ‘domestication’. To be consumed en masse it needed to be harnessed, controlled, and ‘tamed’ within the home. With their emanating penetrative radiation and electrical wiring, home-use lamps were potentially volatile devices that could burn and shock users. To be effectively advertised, these new devices required a new aesthetic, one that

in Soaking up the rays
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

readily consumed ultraviolet radiation and pigmented? Dr Murray Levick, describing light-therapy experiments he carried out at St Thomas’ Hospital on child patients exhibiting ‘debility, with anorexia, listlessness, general malnutrition and fretfulness’, stated in 1924: ‘It was interesting to note that a little negro boy made very tardy progress alongside a white boy who made a rapid recovery.’ 9 Since

in Soaking up the rays
Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

’, declared the opening article. 6 Manufacturers advertised an array of home-use and clinical lamps, propounding to nourish Britain’s ‘sun-starved’ citizens (e.g., Fig. 1.4 ). Other products offered unfettered access to sunlight through their own transparency: ‘Vita’ glass windows and ‘Celanese’ fabric were permeable to ultraviolet radiation, allowing for bodily exposure to sunlight even when indoors

in Soaking up the rays
Abstract only
Corporate ecocide
David Whyte

that a build-up of CFCs was responsible for depleting the ozone layer, essential for absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and cooling down the earth. Indeed, the studies concluded that the effects were most probably irreversible. It is unlikely that chemical companies manufacturing CFCs knew, or could have known, the 15 WHYTE 9781526146984 PRINT.indd 15 29/06/2020 14:40 Ecocide irreversible effects of their product before 1974. Yet, as soon as the findings were published, the US Chemical Manufacturers Association, led by the chemical company, DuPont (the

in Ecocide
Abstract only
Author:

This book explains the direct link between the structure of the corporation and its limitless capacity for ecological destruction. It argues that we need to find the most effective means of ending the corporation’s death grip over us. The corporation is a problem, not merely because it devours natural resources, pollutes and accelerates the carbon economy. As this book argues, the constitutional structure of the corporation eradicates the possibility that we can put the protection of the planet before profit. A fight to get rid of the corporations that have brought us to this point may seem an impossible task at the moment, but it is necessary for our survival. It is hardly radical to suggest that if something is killing us, we should over-power it and make it stop. We need to kill the corporation before it kills us.

Open Access (free)
Tania Anne Woloshyn

lighting. Actinic light took centre stage in the intertwined histories of photography, electric lighting, and therapies utilising the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. As Kelley Wilder made clear, photography’s real calling card is its reputation for widening the scope of what could be observed by the eye. Ultraviolet radiation, called variously the chemical spectrum and

in Soaking up the rays
Climatic anxieties in the colonial tropics
Dane Kennedy

had practised in Shanghai noted the frequency of suicides there, especially ‘during the hot season of the year’, and attributed them and the generalised ennui of European residents to heat on the head and glare in the eyes. Another correspondent with apparent experience in China believed that ultraviolet radiation was the culprit, and he urged that dark-skinned, dark-haired, brown-eyed ‘phlegmatic

in Imperialism and the natural world