I am a historian of medicine and healthcare, primarily working on Britain from 1750 onwards. I have a long-standing interest in the history of surgery and have written extensively on surgical risk and innovation. My current research explores the global development of medical journalism as a specialist form of writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how it has shaped the meaning of medicine. I also write about the history of first aid and how it became a cultural phenomenon in Victorian Britain.
As Humanities and Healthcare Fellow I work on fostering greater interdisciplinary collaboration at the University between humanities researchers and the Medical Sciences Division.
First aid and lifesaving practices in the nineteenth century.
The relationship between health, medicine and the media.
I am a historian of health, medicine and illness from 1750 to the present. I received my PhD from UCL in 2014. Between 2014 and 2019 I was a postdoctoral researcher on two medical humanities projects at Oxford: Constructing Scientific Communities and Diseases of Modern Life. I have a long-standing interest in the history of surgery, its changing social and cultural context and its ethical implications. My open access monograph, Belly Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy published in 2018, looked at the history of ovariotomy, a highly controversial operation popularised in the nineteenth century, and which brought with it questions about the degree of power that surgeons could and should exercise over the human body. I have also published on the development of keyhole surgery in the 1980s and the relationship between surgery and intellectual property in journals such as Social History of Medicine and the British Journal for the History of Science. I also have research interests in the historical and cultural significance of first aid and lifesaving techniques and in the relationship between health, medicine and the media.
As Humanities and Healthcare Fellow I am tasked with fostering greater interdisciplinary collaboration at the University between humanities researchers and the Medical Sciences Division and am particularly interested in the ways in which humanities can be used in the teaching and training of medical and healthcare practitioners. I have also been involved in a number of public engagement projects, including as lead on ‘Mind-Boggling Medical History’, a card game designed to introduce medical history to new audiences (http://www.ox.ac.uk/research/research-impact/mind-boggling-medical-history).
Belly Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy (2018)
This open access book looks at the dramatic history of ovariotomy, an operation to remove ovarian tumours first practiced in the early nineteenth century. Bold and daring, surgeons who performed it claimed to be initiating a new era of surgery by opening the abdomen. Ovariotomy soon occupied a complex position within medicine and society, as an operation which symbolised surgical progress, while also remaining at the boundaries of ethical acceptability. This book traces the operation’s innovation, from its roots in eighteenth-century pathology, through the denouncement of those who performed it as ‘belly-rippers’, to its rapid uptake in the 1880s, when ovariotomists were accused of over-operating. Throughout the century, the operation was never a hair’s breadth from controversy.