Teaching

I teach and lecture widely on the history of science and medicine. I’ve held teaching posts at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine and the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL, the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, the Pembroke-Kings Programme in Cambridge, and during my time as Scholar in Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Library in April 2014 I led a series of seminars on history, anatomy and the sublime. I’ve given academic courses or lectures for the City Lit, ACCENT International, the Society of Apothecaries, the V&A, the University of Geneva Medical School, the Harvard Medical School Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Programme, the Prince’s Teaching Institute, and the IF Project. My current teaching portfolio includes:

Apocalypse: Visions of the End of the World

Humans are storytellers, and stories have ends. We are mortal, too, and our lives have ends. But how should we think about our collective fate, about the end of the world? And why – especially in the Judaeo-Christian West – have we returned again and again to these visions of apocalypse? On this course we’ll explore the history of Western art, literature, politics, science and religion through representations of the end of the world, from the lurid, punitive fantasies of the Biblical Book of Revelation to the no less inexorable conclusions of modern climate science. As we go, we’ll discover that these stories of destruction play many roles in human life and culture. They offer a frame for thinking about mortality and meaning; they figure as an aesthetic and emotional response to changing scientific knowledge; most importantly, they embody a set of political and moral anxieties about the destructive forces lurking in the human mind, the social body and the natural world. Join us – before it’s too late.

12 lectures, 8 seminars, assessed by final essay & exam

Disease in History

What is disease? How has our understanding of disease – and experiences of disease – changed over time? Why did most people turn to priests, rather than doctors, during the Black Death? Why did a completely erroneous theory of cholera transmission inspire the most sweeping socio-political revolution in London’s history? How did malaria – a disease common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages – become the emblematic tropical disease in the nineteenth century? Why has cancer proved so intractable in the face of a multi-billion-pound research onslaught? This course will give you some new and challenging ways to think about these questions, drawing on the insights of cultural history, sociology and modern biomedicine. We’ll also consider the ways in which race, gender and sexuality have each been framed in pathological terms, and how these framings have been challenged.

20 lectures, assessed by mid-term & final essay

The Darwinian Revolution

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is a cornerstone of modern life science, but in the 150 years or so since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 its cultural influence has been equally potent. To many people the Origin is also a foundational text of modern secularism: in The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins argued that ‘Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist’. But if we want to understand the enduring influence of evolutionary theory – and the protracted controversy it has provoked – we must step back into the nineteenth century, and examine the intellectual and cultural currents through which Darwin and his contemporaries moved. In this course we’ll tell the story of this remarkable century, and its lasting influence on science, politics and culture.

12 lectures, 8 seminars, assessed by final essay & exam