I am a historian of science and medicine specialising on medicine, biology, and mental health in the 19th and 20th centuries. Following a PhD dissertation on the 'Crisis of Medicine' in Weimar Germany, I have published mostly on the histories of lung cancer and other conditions that have been characterised as diseases of civilisation. I am interested in the interplay of epidemiology, laboratory research and clinical medicine, and in the history of the central paradigm of modern biomedicine: that investment in basic research sooner or later will bear fruit, in the shape of effective therapies. I teach modules in the history of biology and medicine (including psychiatry and mental health).
I am interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the history of science, technology and medicine that demonstrate the relevance of this fascinating subject for the present: how have science, technology and medicine shaped the world we live in?
Before Translational Medicine
Since January 2011 I have been working on a research project on the prehistory of what today is framed as translational research in medicine, funded by Wellcome Trust Programme Award, together with Rob Kirk, Stephanie Snow, Duncan Wilson, Michael Worboys and David Thompson. We are exploring laboratory-epidemiology-clinic relationships in the histories of a number of disorders involving the brain and the mind, looking specifically at psychotropic drug research, dementia and stroke. My personal interest in this programme is informed by comparisons with cancer and other diseases often viewed as diseases of civilization. Particular focus points for me are:
- the role of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC),
- statistics and epidemiology,
- molecularization in medicine and biology.
History of Chronic Illness
My interest in the history of chronic illness builds on earlier work on the histories of cancer and cardiovascular disease. I contributed the chapter on chronic illness in the Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine edited by Mark Jackson (2011). In 2010 I organised a workshop here in Manchester on the history of chronic illness, as part of an ESF-funded network on drugs and standardisation in medicine.
History of Cancer
Since 2003 I have been involved (initially with John Pickstone, Emm Barnes, Elizabeth Toon and Helen Valier) in a collaborative reasearch project on the history of cancer research and cancer services in post-war Britain, funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Award. We explored the history of cancer as a disease that has come to epitomise modernity, comparing different cancers and their meanings. Articles on the role of the MRC in clinical cancer research have appeared in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine and Medical History.
History of Hypertension
I have also published on the history of cardiovascular research, especially high blood pressure, in post-war Britain and both German states, looking at novel drug therapies since the 1940s and the transformation of essential hypertension into what we now know as a 'risk factor'.