Review: Paul, D. and J. Brosco. The PKU Paradox: A Short History of a Genetic Disease. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

Main Article Content

Riiko Bedford


phenlyketonuria, PKU, history of medicine, biography of disease,


Historian Diane Paul and paediatrician Jeffrey Brosco have come together to write the first book-length history of phenlyketonuria (PKU). The PKU Paradox restores what has been lost from the history of the disease in its transformation into a medical parable and unambiguous success story. The authors accomplish this through two moves: first, by correcting certain historical inaccuracies or omissions that have accrued to the story of the disease, and second, by highlighting some of the quotidian difficulties and uncertainties that patients experience while living with and managing the disease. In the process, they weave the biography of PKU through a number of rich historical trajectories, including the history of newborn screening, patient activism, and medical ethics, in addition to the more familiar histories of genetics, eugenics, and psychiatry.