Bioethics is a rather young inter-disciplinary field of inquiry. As an academic specialty, it has emerged in the second half of the twentieth century as a consequence of new discoveries and inventions in the biomedical field. Despite its youth, bioethics already has a rich history due to the intensity with which its typical topics have been discussed. For example, topics such as organ transplant, euthanasia, abortion, in vitro fertilization, stem-cell therapies, gene therapies, and vaccines have indeed sparked debate both inside and outside the academic world. It is even truer that bioethics has a rich history if we consider the debates that took place before the word "bioethics" was introduced.
Even if the prevailing temptation is to discuss the above-mentioned issues from a normative point of view, in this special issue of Orbis Idearum we ask specialists of the history of ideas to contribute to the debate from their own, strictly historical, perspective. Readers expect to learn about the historical trajectory of the main positions in the field, that is, how certain bioethical ideas were born, gained attention, spread, became hegemonic or disappeared, rather than learning if according to the contributors and the standards of today they were “good” or “bad” ideas.