Prof Carsten Timmermann MSc, MA, PhD

Professor of History of Science, Technology & Medicine

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Research interests

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?

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. Books by members of the project have dealt with the histories of prostate cancer, childhood cancers, lung cancer, and patient experiences. Journal articles, have appeared, for example, in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Medical History, and Chronic Illness.

In collaboration with the the Historical Archive of the Hoffmann-La Roche AG I researched and wrote a monograph on the history of chemotherapy and more recent biological cancer treatments, commonly characterised as personalised medicine and based on monoclonal antibody technology. The book can be downloaded here for free, as an open-access pdf.

History of Mental Illness

I have been teaching our Centre's unit on 'Madness and Society in the Modern Age' in the past few years, and this has led to new collaborations in research. Jointly with Fritz Handerer, Peter Kinderman and Sara Tai I published an article on how the structure of mental hospital records has changed since the nineteenth century.

Before Translational Medicine

From 2011 to 2018 I worked  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.

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 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'.



Research and projects