Dr Claas Kirchhelle


​Research interests:

  • History of antibiotic use, resistance, and regulation
  • Public health and epidemiology
  • Bacteriophage and phage-typing

My research interests include environmental history, history of medicine, science and technology studies, and public health policy. In addition to my current research on the history of antibiotic development and policy, I have grown interested in the technologies underpinning modern understandings of bacterial resistance, our microbial surroundings, and our own microbiome. I am particularly interested in the role that a group of viruses called bacteriophages and a technology called phage-typing played in changing 20th century epidemiology, infection control, and bacterial taxonomy.

I am a tutor for Oxford’s General History XIV Paper on 20th century Global History and teach the Further Subject 22 Authority of Nature on the history of eugenics, heredity and crime since 1800.


  • Reinventing the antimicrobial pipeline in response to the global crisis of antimicrobial-resistant infections.

  • Pharming Animals – a global history of antibiotics in food production (1935-2017)

  • Swann Song: Antibiotic Regulation in British Livestock Production (1953–2006)

  • Toxic Tales—Recent Histories of Pollution, Poisoning, and Pesticides (ca. 1800–2010)

  • Toxic confusion: the dilemma of antibiotic regulation in West German food production (1951-1990).

  • History Teaches Us That Confronting Antibiotic Resistance Requires Stronger Global Collective Action

  • Wie Seveso nach Deutschland kam. Umweltskandale und ökologische Debatten 1976 bis 1986

  • More

I currently teach:


  General History XIV - The Global Twentieth Century, 1930-2003
  Further Subject 22 - Authority of Nature: Race, Heredity, and Crime, 1800-1940



Methods and Themes in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

In the Media


Research on new public solutions for antibiotic research & development (F1000, 2019) discussed by Maryn McKenna in Wired 'The Radical Plan to Change How Antibiotics Get Developed' (May, 2019).

The challenge of antimicrobial resistance: What economics can contribute
Singer, Andrew; Kirchhelle, Claas; Roberts, Adam: The need to explore the economics of (inter)nationalising the antibiotic pipeline. In: Science Eletters - (29 April 2019) 


Patchwork regulation won’t stop antimicrobial resistance
Published in Nature


Jeremy Cherfas’ ‘Eat This’ series
Antibiotics and Agriculture: tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance at (one) source

Scientific Advisor for Al Smith’s “Dangerous Visions – Culture” a dystopian 45-minute BBC Radio 4 drama on bacterial resistance

Co-curator "Back from the Dead" - an exhibition on the history of penicillin and penicillin resistance
Museum of the History of Science (November 2016-May 2017)
Winner of the Vice Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Projects Award, 2017
Oxford Martin School & Museum of the History of Science: Demystifying antibiotics

BBC Radio 4 Experimental Histories Workshop on antibiotic resistance
Collaboration with playwrights for a radio drama focusing on the dangers of bacterial resistance.
Wellcome Trust, London

Yellow Magic Exhibition - a one-day exhibition for children on the Oxford Group's development of penicillin.
Museum of the History of Science


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