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Dr. Russell Noyes to speak on the history of hypochondria

The public is invited to a University of Iowa History of Medicine talk on “The Transformation of Hypochondriasis: 1680 to 1880” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 22, in Room 401 of the UI Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.

The speaker will be Russell Noyes, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa

Light refreshments will be served. The lecture is part of a series of presentations sponsored by the UI History of Medicine Society.

Hypochondriasis, which today is a mental disturbance characterized by unfounded fear of serious illness, was once a common physical disease. Indeed, Sydenham (1681) said that it along with hysteria accounted for half of the chronic diseases he saw. But over the next 200 years hypochondriasis was transformed from a major physical to a minor mental disorder. What had been an affliction of the abdominal organs (hypochonders) became a disorder of the brain and finally the mind.

Noyes will trace this transformation and talk about factors that brought it about. These included advances in medical science that resulted in the removal of gastrointestinal diseases from hypochondriasis. They also involved social factors that contributed to fear of disease and to making hypochondriasis a mark of class distinction. A review of its history provides some perspective on the controversies that surround the disorder today.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Ed Holtum at 319-335-9154 or

For directions to Hardin Library and information on parking, visit

For more information about the UI History of Medicine Society lecture series, visit