STS Seminar Series explores establishment of Ontario’s public health


York University’s 2021-22 Science and Technology Studies (STS) Departmental Seminar Series continues Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 12:30 p.m., featuring Kenton Kroker, assistant professor in the Department of Social Science. The talk is titled “Ontario’s Public Health Imaginary, circa 1882.”

Kenton Kroker

Kroker will explore Ontario’s Board of Health, established in 1882. Upon its creation, a campaign was initiated to document and communicate health conditions throughout the province. At the time, the concept of promoting healthy living in Ontario and developing a body of scientific data to guide health policy was conventional.

However, the project’s scope, structure and deployment were unprecedented. Led by the board’s inaugural secretary, Dr. Peter H. Bryce, the project revealed how a group of physicians imagined how science, disease, technical expertise and settler knowledge might combine with the province’s expansive territorial ambitions to create “the public’s health” as an object of governance within the Canadian confederation.

The large, colourful layout and complex health information contained in Bryce’s map series known as “weekly health bulletins,” were unusual, but their scale of production was shocking. As part of the campaign, the province produced up to 70,000 copies in less than three years.

Only 42 of these maps were eventually deposited in the Archives of Ontario. Disregarded by their creator and overlooked by historians, the rhetoric and logic of these “weekly health bulletins” will be presented as a key component in generating a consensus regarding the nature of Ontario’s public health in the 1880s.

Now in its 28th year, the STS Research Seminar Series features seminars on a wide range of STS-related topics. Sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology Studies and coordinated by its members, the series has hosted more than 500 speakers from Canada and around the world.

All events in the series will run on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. They are all free and open to the public, with no registration required. The talks are delivered via Zoom in the fall term, with delivery for the winter term to be determined. To receive a Zoom link for this event and others in the series, contact STS Professor Conor Douglas, seminar series coordinator, by email at