Dr. Jaipreet Virdi is a historian of medicine, technology, and disability. She received her M.A. (2008) and Ph.D. (2014) from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. Her research concentrates on the way medicine and technology impacts the lived experiences of disabled people, and how disabled people in turn, have historically been central to technological innovations.
Dr. Virdi’s first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History (University of Chicago Press, 2020) rethinks how therapeutic negotiation and the influence of pseudo-medicine shaped what it meant to be a “normal” deaf citizen in American history. Examining how deaf/deafened individuals attempted to amplify their hearing through various types of surgical, proprietary, and/or technological “deafness cures,” this book charts the dissemination of ideas about hearing loss from beyond medical elites to popular culture and the popular imagination. An amalgam of research and memoir, Hearing Happiness seeks to understand society’s obsession with the quest of a cure. The book received the 2021 Hughes Prize from the British Society for the History of Science and the American Association for the History of Medicine’s 2022 Welch Medal.
In her undergraduate seminars “Disability in the American Experience,” and “History of Medicine,” and her graduate seminar “Disability Histories,” Dr. Virdi teaches students how to interpret material and visual sources to understand how cultural ideas of health, disability, and ability are embedded in objects. Her teaching is informed by her digital humanities project, Objects of Disability, which is currently being built. This project is an online resource database and narratives of historical artefacts used by, and/or crafted by, Canadians with disabilities, including adapted snowshoes for a one-legged person, iron hand prostheses, crafted purses for hearing devices, and more. Dr. Virdi’s is additionally working on three other research projects: a study of how deaf painter Dorothy Brett’s deafness influenced her artistic style; a material culture study of hearing aid tinkerers, and a co-authored book on the historical roots of interwar scientific research on disability through the lens of British scientist Phyllis M. Tookey Kerridge.
Dr. Virdi serves as Contributing Editor of the Journal Pharmacy in History, Associate Editor of the Historical Journal of the Natural Sciences, Editor of Communiqué, the newsletter of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and as Managing Editor of the Disability History Association’s blog, All of Us.