Dr Harriet Palfreyman PhD

Lecturer in Science Communication

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I am a lecturer in Science and Health Communication with a broad interest in visual and material cultures of health and medicine. From sixteenth-century anatomical woodcuts to contemporary infographics tracking the current global pandemic of COVID-19, visualisations have much to tell us about our understandings of and assumptions about health, sickness, bodies, and ourselves.

My background is in the history of medicine and I received my PhD in history from the University of Warwick in 2012. My thesis focused on the visual construction of knowledge about venereal disease in nineteenth century London. Since then, I have attempted to move on to less gruesome topics with very little success. My first postdoctoral position was at Imperial College London where I worked on the history of minimally invasive surgery as well as the Time Travelling Operating Theatre public engagement project. Following this I worked at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science where I was based in the research group looking at 'The Construction of Norms in Seventeenth to Nineteenth-Century Europe and the United States'

Since joining CHSTM in 2015 my interests have moved further into the contemporary period. I have worked on surgical illustrations in the twentieth century, exploring a collection of illustrations made by Manchester-based medical artist Dorothy Davison. My current research is into the anatomical and surgical imagery used in contemporary horror film and tv.

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

Education / academic qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Visualising Venereal Disease in London c.1780-1860, The University of Warwick

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