I am a modern historian, whose work investigates changing notions of health, disease and morality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My research interests include: -
Species Loss and the Ecology of Human-Animal Health.
I am currently working on a Wellcome Trust University Award project, titled 'Species Loss and the Ecology of Human-Animal Health: Understanding and Preventing Extinction in the Twentieth Century and Beyond'. Drawing on the archives of conservation organisations, scientific institutions and zoos, as well as interviews with conservation biologists and policymakers, the project explores and historicises the scientific interest in connections between species loss and human health, focussing on how awareness of these connections underpinned new ways of viewing, valuing and intervening in the natural world.
The project aims to bridge important approaches in medical humanities and environmental history and will enable me to engage with contemporary issues. Given the dire warnings about the rates and consequences of species loss today, which scientists label the 'sixth mass extinction', we urgently need histories that help us to reflect on who, or rather what, counts in our societies and why.
Histories of Bioethics, Tissue Culture and Animal 'Suicide'.
In several articles and a 2014 book on The Making of British Bioethics, I investigated why recent decades witnessed a profound change in the politics of medicine and the biological sciences, both in Britain and worldwide, with members of several professions, collectively known as 'bioethicists', discussing and helping to regulate issues that were once the preserve of doctors and scientists. I detailed how bioethics became influential in Britain because it mapped onto the neo-liberal belief that professions should be externally monitored to increase their public accountability. I also showed how bioethicists consolidated their authority by acting as crucial intermediaries: echoing criticism of self-regulation while claiming that bioethics was vital to maintaining public trust in science and medicine.
I have also published a 2011 book on popular attitudes to tissue culture, showing how its 'public life' arose thanks to engagement between scientific practices and socio-cultural concerns in twentieth century Britain. And in work with Ed Ramsden, I have shown that there was considerable popular and scientific interest in the possibility of animal suicide during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: reflecting shifting ideas about the relations between human and animal minds and our duties toward the natural world.