Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Medical boundaries contested: Sweden, Germany and the exchange of medical knowledge 1952-1989


Ämne: Idéhistoria
Projektledare: Maria Björk
Startår: 2017

The project will explore the exchange of medical knowledge between Sweden and Germany during the post-war period, focusing on the controversy surrounding the experimental cancer drug THX and its inventor Elis Sandberg from 1952 to 1989. German scientific influences are sometimes claimed to have lost importance in Sweden after the war, when America became the new centre of medical development. The project questions this picture and aims to show that the exchange between Sweden and Germany continued, within the frames of the THX-controversy, suggesting that the development rather ought to be described as a shift in arenas and forms of exchange, not a loss of influence on Germany’s behalf.

THX became a source of conflict in Sweden when Elis Sandbergs’ claims that THX cured cancer and several other diseases could not be verified by the scientific community. However, Sandberg gained support from German doctors and medical scientists, and the THX clinic in Aneby, Sweden was supplemented by a THX-clinic in Bad Harzburg, Germany. The project explores these two sites of knowledge exchange, and thereby illuminates the implications of the different medical contexts of the two countries to the THX-controversy. By analysing a broad range of source material such as patients’ letters, professional correspondence between Sandberg and other doctors and scientist and press material from Sweden and Germany, the project approaches the question of knowledge exchange from a new perspective. By including patients’ experiences and opinions, and focusing on doctors and medical scientists in the periphery rather than elite scientists and experts, the project investigates hitherto overlooked aspects of medical knowledge in exchange.

The primary research question the project will answer is:
In what ways does the exchange of medical knowledge within the THX-controversy construct and contrast such knowledge between 1952 and 1989, and with what consequences?