Roger Turner, Ph.D.

Roger Turner headshot 2019 copy_edited_e

Dr. Roger Turner is a museum curator at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia. He studies how science and technology have shaped the modern world, ranging from chemistry labs to pollution control to weather forecasting.

Roger has worked on Instruments of Change, a playful digital museum exhibit that introduces five scientific instruments significant for 20th century chemistry. He has written about a blind biochemist whose experiments with LSD in the 1950s helped transform science’s understanding of mind and body. Most recently, he created a digital exhibit about the emerging field of Mechanochemistry titled The Science of Crush.

Dr. Turner earned his Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Meteorological Society, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. When he’s not thinking about history, he likes to birdwatch with his family in the forests of central Pennsylvania.

Abstract: Can medical instruments be racist?

Did you know that spirometers assume a 10–15% smaller lung capacity for Black patients? How did this happen? Perspectives from the interdisciplinary field of Science Technology and Society (STS) have begun to reshape public discussion about medical instruments and racial inequality in the last few years. STS explores how knowledge and machines are related to power, since the STEM fields are social practices never separate from the societies in which they operate. Drawing on the work of STS scholars Lundy Braun and Amy Moran-Thomas, this talk traces the histories of the spirometer and the pulse oximeter to show two different ways that seemingly neutral medical instruments can reproduce racial disparities and prejudice. But the histories of those machines also offer insights into how we might make instruments—and the social systems that use them—better serve all the people they measure.