News and events 2015


Centre graduate students and honorary staff were involved in the recent UK Association for the History of Nursing conference, which was held at the Infirmary Museum, Worcester on 9 July. The annual UKAHN conference highlights new work in the history of nursing, and this year's event included papers by Unit PhD student Chris Gowing, who spoke on the use of complementary and alternative medicines by NHS nurses, 1948-2000, and former PhD student Fran Badger, who spoke on nurses and midwives in nineteenth-century Birmingham. Other participants included Stuart Wildman, and Rima Apple, who was a visiting fellow in Birmingham for the month of June, and gave the conference keynote address.

Photo above: Unit honorary fellow Dr Stuart Wildman chairing Chris Gowing in the first session of the UKAHN conference


Lesley SmithCongratulations to our postgraduate students and our intercalation students who were formally awarded their degrees yesterday at the final graduation ceremony of the summer session. Among the postgraduates celebrating were Lesley Smith, who undertook a detailed investigation of an early modern leech book, and Alistair Ritch, whose thesis compared medical services in Birmingham and Wolverhampton workhouses. Intercalation students receiving their BMedSci degrees included Catrin Wigley, Charlotte Soldan, Ed Hutchinson, Sarah Clements, Matthew Fallon, Jacqueline Morgan, and Emma Jacobs (who received the Arthur Thomson Prize for the top mark overall in the PoSH BMedSci programme). Well done to all of you! 

Photo above: Lesley Smith with one of her supervisors, Jonathan Reinarz (absent: Elaine Fulton)


The First Day Poster envisagedHonorary Research  Fellow Dr Andrew Williams recently organised an event at which staff and patients at Northampton General Hospital re-enacted the first day of patient admissions at their medical institution. A subsequent film, 'The First Day', reconstructs the health care pathway of both in- and outpatients at the 18th-century hospital, and is now viewable on line. Present on the day, was our former outreach officer, Julia Hyland, who also did the medical make-up on the day. The well-received film was screened twice during the 2015 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Annual Meeting in Birmingham in April, and has now been uploaded to Youtube by the RCPCH on their You Tube channel.



Rima Apple and Michael AppleThe History of Medicine Unit was very pleased to host Rima Apple, Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine from The University of Wisconsin at Madison. Professor Apple has in the past worked on the history of maternal healthcare, vitamins and infant feeding, and is currently working on the history of public health nursing in twentieth-century America. While in Birmingham, she participated in a seminar on the history of community nursing and will be presenting her work at a nursing history conference in Worcester on 9 July Find out more: 

Photo above: Rima at Selly Manor with husband, Michael Apple, who was a Visiting Professor with the University's Institute of Advanced Studies for the month of June.    


Jonathan Reinarz attended the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine annual conference in Ottawa in between 30 May and 1 June. Jonathan presented a paper on the history of burns medicine between 1850 and 1950 that described the way in which the understanding of burns in this period extended treatment beyond the surface of these injuries, and a growing recognition that serious burns potentially impacted on all of the body's systems, thereby necessitating interdisciplinary burns teams in order to treat burns effectively. 


Owen Wade DeanshipThe History of Medicine Unit has organised an installed an exhibition in the display cases which explores the history of the Deans of the Medical School. The exhibition, which starts with William Sands Cox, the founder of Birmingham's first medical school, ends with Professor Owen Wade, who chaired the committee which revised the British National Formulary and commenced his term the day Birmingham witnessed the world's last smallpox outbreak. The exhibition runs until Sept 2015.

Photo above: Dean Wade in his office, c.1982


Jonathan Reinarz travelled to Dubrovnik to present a paper at the International Network for the History of Hospital's biennial conference, which was on the subject on 'Segregation and Integration'. Jonathan's paper was on the history of burns units in Britain, c.1845-1950. He explored the isolation of burns patients (and the changing justifications for this policy) and the simultaneous integration of various medical specialists into burns teams over a century that saw the emergence of modern bacteriology and specially-designed burns treatment centres. A short summary of the event can be found here:


Photos above: The Inter-University Centre and conference delegates having lunch in the courtyard of the IAS building in Dubrovnik.


Brazil2015-wax-headIn late April, Jonathan Reinarz travelled to Brazil with the University's Institute of Advanced Studies team to take part in a week-long series of talks and tours around the theme of time. Organised by the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Sao Paulo, the  event was also an opportunity for members of the University-Based Institutes of Advanced Studies (UBIAS) to solidify their partnership and commence planning for their next meeting in Birmingham in June 2016. Finally, the visit was an opportunity to make new contacts, such as a visit with the staff of the medical museum at the University of Sao Paulo. More information about the IAS activities in Brazil can be found here:



Photos above: The medical waxes collection of the University of Sao Paulo Medical School.


Ten Books

As part of the Arts and Science festival at the University in March, Jonathan Reinarz gave a talk on ‘Ten Books that Changed Medicine’. The talk drew attention to a number of key texts which are contained in the University Library and Archives, and he was assisted on the day by staff from the Cadbury research Library, who allowed members of the audience to  examine the texts discussed, as well as other works by the ten authors featured in the lecture.



The photo to the left is the frontispiece of one of the ten works discussed, Morgagni’s The Seats and Causes of Disease, first published in 1761. 


Opera HouseVanessa Heggie, the Unit’s Birmingham Fellow in the history of medicine, is currently at the University of Sydney, supported by a 3-month Fellowship from the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (  In late February she gave a lunchtime talk to the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine (, on social media and blogging in academia, and this week she presented her research on the history of scientific exploration and expeditions to the History and Philosophy of Science ( seminar group.

Image above: Sydney Opera House (c) Vanessa Heggie 2015


Alistair RitchCongratulations to Alistair Ritch (pictured), who successfully defended his thesis on medicine in the nineteenth-century workhouse on 20 Feb. Alistair researched the histories of Wolverhampton and Birmingham workhouses under the New Poor Law and passed with only minor revisions. Well done, Alistair!



Birmingham workhouse

The photo above is of the archway entrance to Birmingham workhouse, taken by Alistair in the 1980s when it was still in use as offices in the Department of Geriatric Medicine. It was known locally as 'The Arch of Tears'.



FanxiangThe History of Medicine Unit is pleased to welcome Dr Fanxiang Min who will be working with us from February 2015 until January 2016. Dr Min is from China’s premier History Department at the University of Nanjing and will be researching the history of the NHS and familiarising himself more widely with new directions in the history of medicine. While at the University, he will also be a visiting fellow in Modern British Studies in the School of History and Cultures. Anyone who wishes to meet Dr Min while he is here, please contact the Unit and we will arrange a meeting.


Sarah Faloon, an undergraduate medical student who took our second-year History of Surgery module last year, has won the undergraduate essay prize of the Society for the Social History of Medicine. Sarah wrote on surgical innovations at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast during the Troubles in North Ireland. Her article,  ‘Medical Innovation in a Period of Conflict: The Hospital with a Warzone on its Doorstep ’, will be published on the SSHM’s website in February.

Sarah was born in the Royal Victoria Hospital and has sent us the photo below of her as a baby with her mother Alison and siblings Carol and Paul, May 1992.

Sarah's blog summarising her research is on the SSHM webpage and can be accessed here: 

Royal Victoria Hospital