News 2013

December 2013

Dr Jonathan Reinarz spoke to delegates from UK, Switzerland, Poland, Ireland, and the USA about the history of medical research in Birmingham at the recent launch of the European Union-funded DECIDE network (About Decision-making within cells and differentiation entity therapies). The DECIDE ITN brings together scientists who have made important advances in the fields of haematopoiesis and differentiation therapy and has both scientific and therapeutic targets. DECIDE aims to advance the understanding of normal blood cell development and why primitive cells fail to differentiate in acute myeloid leukaemia.

Dr Reinarz addressing delegates

Dr Reinarz addressing delegates


Unit member Dr Vanessa Heggie was recently interviewed by the Ideas Lab podcast team for one of their Predictor Podcasts. These podcasts are short interviews with academics who talk about their work and give 'insider knowledge on new trends and key issues' in their fields. In this 9-minute podcast Vanessa discusses her research into the history of sports medicine and extreme physiology.



young boy on crutchesFormer SP1 student Cathleen Chan and Honorary Fellow Andrew Williams have published an article in the journal of Family and Community History on the 'Northampton Crippled Children's Fund'. Cathleen undertook the initial research on this project while a second-year medical student. Research was undertaken in the Archives of the Northampton General Hospital, where Dr Williams is a Consultant in Paediatrics. 

November 2013

The unit’s Birmingham Fellow, Vanessa Heggie, spent the last week of November at an Alpine research station in Finse, Norway attending a workshop on Arctic and Tropical field laboratories, which was sponsored by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the University of Oslo.

‘Homes for science: The Anthropology Of Tropical And Arctic Field-Stations’ gathered together anthropologists, sociologists, historians, conceptual artists, filmmakers, ethnographers, architects and political scientists to discuss the particular challenges faced by people doing scientific work in the polar and tropical regions of the world; we talked about everything from nineteenth century leprosy research, to the physiological problems of current Russian oil workers in Siberia.

This will be one of the last of the ‘exploratory workshops’ funded by the ESF which is sadly winding down its activities; nonetheless it was an extremely productive interdisciplinary meeting, where lots of collaborations were forged, probably helped by the inspiring sub-arctic surroundings!

Finse Alpine Research Center

Alpine Research Center


Following the Unit's involvement in the recent repatriation of Maori skulls from the University's Anatomy collection, Dr Jonathan Reinarz was involved in further news coverage regarding the return of skulls formerly contained in medical school anatomy museums. View the full BBC story: What to do with an ancient skull and head collection?

October 2013

Alistair Ritch, PhD candidate in the History of Medicine Unit (MESH), has had an article published in Social History of Medicine, the leading European journal in the field. His article, ‘English Poor Law Institutional Care for Older People: Identifying the “Aged and Infirm” and the “Sick” in Birmingham Workhouse, 1852–1912’
can be found at here:

Birmingham workhouse

September 2013

Dr Jonathan Reinarz attended the biennial conference of the European Association of the History of Medicine and Health in Lisbon, Portugal, where he spoke on the history of the Royal Humane Society’s Birmingham branch, c.1800-1850. At the meeting, Jonathan was also invited to join the EAHMH’s Scientific Board and took on the role of Secretary to the Association. The next meeting of the Association will be in Ulm, Germany in Sept 2015.

For more information please visit the EAHMH website:

History of social medicine group in Portugal

Jonathan on the famous EAHMH conference cruise, with (from right to left), conference keynote Barbra Mann Wall (Penn), Arlene Keeling (Virginia) and John Harley Warner (Yale).


Hospitals and Communities front coverHospitals and Communities, 1100-1960 is a now out! Edited by Chris Bonfield (Lincoln), Teresa Huguet-Termes (Barcelona) and unit Director, Jonathan Reinarz, the volume comprises a selection of papers presented at the International Network for the History of Hospitals biennial conference in Barcelona (2009). The introduction is based on the keynote Dr Reinarz delivered at the event and the volume is the second one in the INHH’s new series, published by Peter Lang.   

August 2013

Medicine and the workhouse front coverMedicine and the Workhouse, edited by Unit Director Jonathan Reinarz and retired Honorary Fellow Leonard Schwarz is now out with University of Rochester Press. This is the first volume to examine the medical relief offered by these neglected institutions, whose beds outnumbered those of voluntary hospitals. Its dozen case studies examine workhouse medicine in England, Ireland, as well as the Caribbean. The volume comprises a selection of papers first presented at a conference hosted by the Unit and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

For more information on this collection, please visit the publisher’s website:


July 2013

In July Birmingham hosted the annual conference of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS), which included a panel on the history of physiology organised by unit Director Jonathan Reinarz. Vanessa Heggie (MESH) and two students supervised by Dr Reinarz - Lauren Howarth and Roberta Rabbits - presented papers, along with Prof. Stephen Jacyna from UCL, and Prof. John West from the University of California. The panel focused on frontiers and pioneers, particularly extreme physiology and exploration, and drew a big crowd, including some famous names in exercise physiology and mountaineering.

International Convention Centre-Birmingham

May 2013

Our colleagues and collaborators at Northampton General Hospital have set up an Archive page on the Hospital’s website. Why not visit the website and see what they have to support your research interests or contact Sue Longworth to plan a visit at Sue.Longworth@NGH.NHS.UK

NGH Archive and Sue Longworth

April 2013

Medical History of Skin CoverJonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (Trent, Canada) are proud to announce the publication of the tenth volume in the SSHM medical history series published by Pickering & Chatto. A Medical History of Skin originated with the Wellcome-funded conference on skin which the unit hosted in Nov. 2010. It includes a selection of the papers presented at the conference and is one of few works on the social and cultural history of skin. 


Jonathan Reinarz and new Birmingham Fellow Vanessa Heggie (MESH) hosted the International Network for the History of Hospitals’ 7th biennial conference on 26-27 April. The event was the first ever conference on the history of hospital food, and took place at the University of Birmingham’s Brussels Office. Over two days, delegates presented some 15 papers on aspects related to the culture of food in medical institutions from the twelfth to the twentieth century. Delegates came from universities in North America, India, continental Europe and Britain, and explored hospitals, workhouses and asylums in India, Russia, Britain, France and the Caribbean, to name just a few of the contexts explored over the two days. A selection of the papers will be published as a special issue of the journal Food & History.

Cakes in Brussels

February 2013

Vanessa Heggie

Dr Vanessa Heggie joins the History of Medicine Unit this month. Dr Heggie has been appointed under the Birmingham fellows scheme and begins a five-year period of research and will then become a permanent member of the Unit’s staff. Her research focuses on the history of sports medicine and physiology. She is currently working on a book on the history of scientific expeditions and exploration physiology. 


Day School:

From Home to Hospital: Healthcare in 18th and 19th Century Birmingham

Location: Birmingham Museum

23rd February 2013 - 23rd February 2013

A Dayschool organised by Birmingham Museums supported by the Centre for West Midlands History, Birmingham University.

Jonathan Reinarz giving a talk at the Day School