I am a Research Associate for the Oxford Martin School's (OMS) Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. Based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, my research addresses the global history of antibiotic use, resistance, and regulation and the implications of history for current antibiotic governance. My dissertation Pyrrhic Progress – Antibiotics in Western Food Production (1949-2015) was awarded Oxford’s 2016 Dev Family Prize for the best thesis in the history of medicine. A monograph based on the dissertation will appear with Rutgers University Press in early 2019. Between 2015 and 2017, I also worked as a co-curator for the Museum of the History of Science’s (MHS) special exhibition Back from the Dead – Demystifying Antibiotics (Nov 2016 – May 2017, 50,000 visitors), which explored the history and current challenges of antibiotic development and bacterial resistance (AMR). For our collaboration on Back from the Dead, the OMS and MHS were jointly awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Projects Award in 2017. In 2017, I also advised on Al Smith’s dystopian AMR-themed radio drama ‘Culture’ (BBC Radio 4, ca. 1,000,000 listeners, commended at BBC 2018 Audio Drama Awards.)
In addition to antibiotics and AMR, I am interested in further intersections between the history of the biomedical sciences and environmental history. My new research projects explore the history of animal welfare science as well as the global history of typhoid, epidemiological surveillance, and infection control.
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.
Pharming Animals – a global history of antibiotics in food production (1935-2017)
Since their advent during the 1930s, antibiotics have not only had a dramatic impact on human medicine, but also on food production. On farms, whaling and fishing fleets as well as in processing plants and aquaculture operations, antibiotics were used to treat and prevent disease, increase feed conversion, and preserve food. Their rapid diffusion into nearly all areas of food production and processing was initially viewed as a story of progress on both sides of the Iron Curtain. However, from the mid-1950s onwards, agricultural antibiotic use also triggered increasing conflicts about drug residues and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Significantly, antibiotic concerns did not develop evenly but instead gave rise to an international patchwork of different regulatory approaches. During a time of growing concerns about AMR and a post-antibiotic age, this article reconstructs the origins, global proliferation, and international regulation of agricultural antibiotics. It argues that policymakers need to remember the long history of regulatory failures that has resulted in current antibiotic infrastructures. For effective international stewardship to develop, it is necessary to address the economic dependencies, deep-rooted notions of development, and fragmented cultural understandings of risk, which all contribute to drive global antibiotic consumption and AMR.