I just stumbled across a brief but nonetheless interesting article: John Pickstone’s A brief history of medical history which is of interest to me as it throws some light on history of medicine at Oxford and the Wellcome Unit for the History of Oxford itself.

I have no idea when it was written and there is no date anywhere to be seen in the article but I suspect it was published c 2008.

There are a number mentions of important Oxford people, including for instance Charles Webster, Margaret Pelling and Mark Harrison. Of course the history of the Wellcome Unit Library itself is reflected in the history of the Unit itself, so for those interested, here is something to read up on:

Pickstone - Brief history of medical history - c 2008


Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 03/02/2014

You say goodbye, and I say hello

After a good deal of fiddling behind the scenes, I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Wellcome Unit Library Blog has a new home! Bodleian Libraries are moving their blogs to a new custom platform, with a new blog aggregator, where our colleagues’ blogs can also be found.

Email subscribers will be moved over to the new blog over the course of the day – please click the link in the email you will receive to confirm you want to follow the blog; If you are following on an RSS reader, you’ll have to resubscribe. All the posts on this blog have been migrated to our new home, and this blog will be deleted on the third of March.

We really hope you’ll join us over at our new blog! Find us at http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/wellcome/

Hope to see you there!

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 31/01/2014

Opening hours, w/b 3/2/14

Next week, our staffed hours will be:

Monday-Wednesday, 2.15pm-5pm

Thursday, 3pm-4.30pm

Friday, 2.15pm-5pm

Please get in touch in advance if you want to plan a visit.

Have a lovely weekend!

PS – watch out next week for an announcement about the Blog!

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 30/01/2014

Unit Seminar, Monday 3rd February

At: The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
Seminar Room, 47 Banbury Road, Oxford

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

‘Medicine and Media’
Conveners: Dr Amelia Bonea and Dr Cressida Jervis Read

Week 3 – 3 February
Christoph Gradmann, University of Oslo/Leverhulme Visiting Professor, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine Oxford
Exploring the “Structural Change of Infections”: Anti-infective Drug Development at the Bayer Company, 1940-1980

The paper analyses how research on antibiotics resistance can be a driving force in the development of new antibiotics. Resistances, while being a problem for physicians and patients, offer enchanting perspectives for those who research and develop new medicines. Resistant strains impose limits on the usage of older medicines and simultaneously modify pathologies in a way that creates markets for new preparations.

My example to study this will be the German pharmaceutical company Bayer.  It had pioneered the development of anti-infective chemotherapies in the 1930s but had missed the boat when it came to fungal antibiotics. In combination with the effects of WWII the company, once a global player in pharmaceuticals, was in danger of being marginalized by Anglo-American big pharma.

In this critical situation the Bayer decided on a r&d strategy that aimed at capitalising on the problems created by the use of first generation antibiotics and to develop medicines that would specifically target pathologies that had resulted from antibiotics application such as drug resistant tuberculosis. The paper will follow drug development and marketing at Bayer from 1945 to about 1980.

About the Speaker


Christoph Gradmann’s research mainly focuses on the history of infectious disease in modernity (19th century to present). His point of departure was the cultural history and the history of science of late-19th-century German medical bacteriology. In this context he wrote a biography of the German physician Robert Koch (1843-1910). Recently he has broadened his focus and now investigates what had happened to infectious disease when they seemed to be returning at the end of the 20th century. Keywords are antibiotic resistance, nosocomial infections, emerging infections etc.

He is interested in the history of the standardisation of biological medicines from about 1850. This research started with studies on the history of tuberculin and has been expanded in scope to address the question if a specific entanglement of technology and biology is specific for the history of modernity. He has worked historiographic issues and in particular on the theory and history of biographies a s genre of historical text. He has published papers, has edited biographical dictionaries and written a book about biographies in interwar Germany.

Select Publications

Laboratory Disease: Robert Koch’s Medical Bacteriology. Johns Hopkins University Press 2009

Evaluating and Standardizing Therapeutic Agents, 1890 – 1950. Palgrave Macmillan 2010

Krankheit im Labor. Robert Koch und die medizinische Bakteriologie. Wallstein Verlag 2005

Magic Bullets and Moving Targets: Antibiotic Resistance and Experimental Chemotherapy 1900 – 1940. Dynamis 31 (2011), pp. 29-45.

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 24/01/2014

Opening hours w/b 27/01/14

A very busy week next week, which means that I’m afraid I won’t be in very often…

The library will be staffed Tuesday, 3pm-5pm, Wednesday 4pm-5pm, Thursday 2.15-4.30pm, and Friday 2.15-5pm.

As ever, please contact us in advance to plan your visit!

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 23/01/2014

Unit Seminar Monday wk 2 27/01/14

Hilary Term 2014 Seminar Series

At: The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
Seminar Room, 47 Banbury Road, Oxford

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

‘Medicine and Media’
Conveners: Dr Amelia Bonea and Dr Cressida Jervis Read

Week 2 – 27 January
Christian Bonah, University of Strasbourg
Communicating Good Health: Sanitary Propaganda and Utility Films in an International perspective, 1900-1950
Historical medical films become increasingly accessible online. Despite an increasing and serious scholarly literature on medicines moving images, critical remarks about medical historian’s troubled relationship with audio-visual sources have not vanished. Still often treated as curiosities the presentation will address difficulties working with these sources and recent approaches beyond documentary film history. Using the example of a corpus (1934-1943) of Bayer image building films the presentation will first describe how Bayer established its internalized film production unit in the 1920, outline its film production, argue for and describe a relevant corpus defined as a specific set of films – image building or Wertwerbungsfilme- within the Bayer industrial film production, investigate in more detail five image building films and finally gauge screening venues asking how films in their screening practice created media events as a promotional strategy. Doing so, the presentations follows recent scholarship in the field of industrial, sponsored, non-fiction and most recently utility film that has argued convincingly that analysis of films should combine serial analysis of several films with context analysis of the production and screening of films from the sponsor’s – and not only the auteur’s or director’s- point of view.

Christian Bonah has studied medicine (MD), history and history of science (PhD) at the Universities of Strasbourg, Berlin and Freiburg. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University he has created and directed the Department for Social Studies and Humanities in Medicine and Health (DHVS) at the Medical Faculty. Christian Bonah received research grants from ANR, DFG, ESF and the EU framework program, and was junior member of the Institut Universitaire de France. He has worked on comparative history of medical education, the history of medication, as well as the history of human experimentation. Recent work includes research on risk perception and management in drug scandals and courtroom trials as well as studies on medical films.

Selected publications:

  • Cantor, D., Bonah, C., Doerries, M. (eds.) [2010], Meat, medicine and Human Health in the Twentieth Century ( London, Pickering&Chatto)
  • “Professional, Industrial and Juridical Regulation of Drugs: The 1953 Stalinon Case and Pharmaceutical Reform in Postwar France”, in Gaudillière, Jean-Paul; Hess Volker, Making Drugs. Ways of Regulating between factory, office, consulting room, and court (London, Palgrave, 2011)
  • “‘Health crusades’: Environmental approaches as public health strategies
    against infections in sanitary propaganda films, 1930 – 1960”, in Berridge, Virginia; Gorsky, Martin, Environment, Health and History, London, Palgrave Macmillan
Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 21/01/2014

Leverhulme Lectures at TORCH

Announcing the


‘An Unnatural History: The Re-Emergence of Infectious Disease in the 20th Century’

Presented by Professor Christoph Gradmann, University of Oslo
Leverhulme Visiting Professor at
Wellcome Unit for the history of Medicine, Oxford

These lectures will be hosted at
TORCH – The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities
Radcliffe Humanities Seminar Room
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford

Hilary Term 2nd Week
Thursday 30 January
17:00    A Vision of Total Control: Explaining and Combating Infectious Disease 1880-1920

Hilary Term 6th Week
Thursday 27 February
17:00    Eradication or Equilibrium?: Epidemiology, Bacteriology and the Crisis of Medicine Between the Wars

Hilary Term 8th Week
Wednesday 12 March
16:00    Infectious Disease and the Therapeutic Revolution 1930-1970

Trinity Term
Date TBA    Stalking Microbes: Antibiotic Resistance, Nosocomial Infections and the Demise of the Modern Hospital 1950-1990

Trinity Term
Date TBA    The Return of Natural History: Re-Emerging Infections, the End of Antibiotics and New Public Health

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 20/01/2014

Unit Seminar today Cancelled

Unfortunately, today’s Unit Seminar has had to be cancelled, due to illness. Our apologies for any disappointment or inconvenience caused.

Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 17/01/2014

Wellcome Unit Seminars – 20/01/14

A new term brings a new set of Wellcome Unit Seminars. This term they are on the theme of Medicine and Media, and are organised by Dr. Amelia Bonea and Dr. Cressida Jervis Read. The first one for this term is…

Week 1 – 20 January

Andy Williams, Cardiff University – Bad Science?: The Challenges of UK Specialist Reporting and the Future of Science, Health, and Environment News.

Science news is not formed in a social, economic, or cultural vacuum. It is written by people at news organisations which are cutting staff and investing fewer resources into news production than previously.  Full discussions of science news in the UK must be situated in the context of the economic and political conditions under which that news is made. Drawing on the findings of an internet survey of UK science news journalists and 52 semi-structured interviews with specialist journalists and editors this talk will investigate elements of the political economy of UK specialist science, health and environment news journalism by assessing changes in the strength of this news beat over time and evaluating changes in working practices and working conditions among this group of news workers.

Dr Williams is currently a lecturer in JOMEC, having recently ended his RCUK Research Fellowship in Risk, Health and Science Communication. He has a number of research interests which intersect journalism studies and cultural studies.

His current major research interests relate to news sources and the influence of public relations on the UK media, especially in the area of science, health and environment news. He is also interested in the political economy of multiplatform journalism, the news in Wales, and in the rise of citizen journalism and user-generated content.

He is from the village of Llantwit Fardre in the South Wales valleys, and attended a local comprehensive school in nearby Beddau. He attained a first class degree in English Literature from Swansea University, and gained an MA and PhD at Cardiff University’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory, where his research interests were in poststructuralist cultural theory, UK media history, and the consumer culture of Victorian Britain.

After a stint as a political researcher for Leanne Wood AM (then the Shadow Social Justice Minister at the Welsh Assembly) he moved to the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies in 2006.

He has a number of research interests which intersect journalism studies and cultural studies. His current major research interests relate to news sources and the influence of public relations on the UK media, especially in the area of science, health and environment news.

Selected Publications:

Murcott, T. and Williams, A. J. 2013. The challenges for science journalism in the UKProgress in Physical Geography 37(2), pp. 152-160. (10.1177/0309133312471285)

Williams, A. J. and Gajevic, S. 2013. Selling science: Source struggles, public relations, and UK press coverage of animal–human hybrid embryosJournalism Studies 14(4), pp. 507-522. (10.1080/1461670X.2012.718576)

Kitzinger, J. et al. 2008. Gender, stereotypes and expertise in the press: how newspapers represent female and male scientists.. Project Report. [Online]. UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) and Cardiff University. Available at: http://cf.ac.uk/jomec/resources/Kitzinger_Report_2.pd

The seminar will be held at 47 Banbury Road on Monday at 2.15pm prompt. Coffee will be available from 2pm


Posted by: Bethan Jenkins | 17/01/2014

Opening hours w/b 20/1/14

Our opening hours for next week will be:
Monday-Wednesday, 2.15pm-5pm

Thursday, 2.15-4.30pm

Friday, 2.15-5pm.

Please do get in touch if you want to visit.

Also, watch this space for an announcement about our blog… Coming soon…

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