Joe C. and Carole Kerr McClendon Honors College
A.B. with honors, History of Science, Harvard University, 1985
M.A., History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, 1987
Ph.D., History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, 1992
Sarah W. Tracy began teaching at the Honors College in 1999. She is an historian of medicine whose research extends into the related disciplines of food studies, medical sociology, and biography. Her research focuses on the diet-health nexus, particularly as it pertains to chronic disease in the United States between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.
Tracy is currently writing a biography of nutritional physiologist and cardiovascular epidemiologist Ancel Keys (1904-2004). Although Keys is best known as a stalwart champion for the diet-heart hypothesis in the generation of cardiovascular disease, he also organized the International High Altitude Expedition of 1935; developed the U.S. Army's K-Ration; and conducted the famous Minnesota Starvation Experiment. A subject in I.Q. psychologist Lewis Terman’s longitudinal study of 1500 “gifted” children, Keys felt the weight of high expectations throughout his life. As the nephew of silent screen star Lon Chaney, Keys also filmed all of his scientific work and was a first-rate publicist, frequently writing for popular audiences. In 1959, he and his wife Margaret Haney Keys published a best-selling cookbook, Eat Well and Stay Well. This volume was revised and re-published as Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way in 1975 and was among the first books to popularize the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Tracy’s biography Health Revolutionary: The Life and Science of Ancel Keys is on schedule for completion in early 2014.
Tracy’s first book was a biography of a disease, alcoholism. Alcoholism in America from Reconstruction to Prohibition was published in 2005 (paperback in 2007) by Johns Hopkins University Press. This project, like her study of Ancel Keys, grew out of Tracy's long-standing interest in the intersecting histories of diet and chronic disease. In 2004, Tracy co-edited with Caroline Jean Acker a collection of essays entitled Altering American Consciousness: The History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800-2000 (University of Massachusetts Press). Most recently, she has co-edited with Australian historian Alison Bashford a special issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (Winter 2012) devoted to the evolving relationship between climate and human health. Her essay on Ancel Keys and the International High Altitude Expedition of 1935 features in this issue.
Tracy teaches courses for honors students and medical students on historical and ethical issues in American medicine and public health, the history of alcohol and drug use in the United States, the sociology of science, biography in American science and history, food in American culture, and the evolution of global food systems.
Sarah Tracy earned her Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the Honors College, she taught at the Universities of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Yale. In 2008, she was a visiting professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard. Working with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tracy built and continues to direct the University of Oklahoma Medical Humanities Program, which features both a minor in the medical humanities and an 8-year combined BA-MD Medical Humanities Scholars Program.
Tracy has received numerous awards and fellowships, including those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Library of Medicine, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute for Mental Health, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard’s Countway Medical Library, and the American Association of University Women. She is a former council member of the American Association for the History of Medicine and a former chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Combined Baccalaureate-MD Programs.
A former bike racer and an avid hiker, she organized her own expedition to the Chilean Andes in 2011 to retrace the footsteps of the Keys-organized journey to 20,000 feet and the International High Altitude Expedition of 1935.