Dr Vanessa Heggie FRHS, FHEA

Dr Vanessa Heggie

Institute of Applied Health Research
Associate Professor in the History of Science and Medicine

Contact details

Murray Learning Centre
Social Studies in Medicine (SSiM)
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Heggie is a historian of modern science and medicine, with a particular interest in the history of nineteenth and twentieth century biomedical and life sciences. She also dabbles in the philosophy of science. 

She has published books on the history of exploration and physiology, and on sports medicine, and many articles and chapters on a range of topics from Victorian nursing and public health to the lab/field divide in science. Vanessa is currently working on the history of evolution, race science and climate change.  

Dr Heggie has been awarded a range of fellowships and awards, including a Mellon Teaching Fellowship, and a Visiting Fellowship from the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science; she has won grants from the Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, British Academy and Isaac Newton Trust. 

She is a keen advocate of Public Engagement, and for five years blogged for the Guardian about the history of science and medicine. 

You can hear her talking about her latest book on the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast, debating her research on sports doping and ethics at the London School of Economics, discussing the awkward history of research in antarctica at International Metabolism Day in Copenhagen, or talking about the history of body building on BBC Radio 4’s You’re Dead To Me  programme.


  • Associate Fellow, Higher Education Authority, 2019
  • PhD History of Medicine, 2004
  • MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine, 2001
  • BSc (Hons) Genetics, 2000


Dr Heggie is the Deputy lead for the BMedSci (History of Medicine) undergraduate degree, as part of the PoSH intercalated programme for medical students (internal & external). 

She also teaches and runs modules in other courses including the Masters in Public Health, Summer Schools, etc.

Dr Heggie teaches as a guest lecturer and supervisor for a range of courses within the History Department in CAL, including the MA in Contemporary History.


History of Life Sciences and Medicine (c.1800-2000) - citizen science - exploration physiology - public health - research ethics - interdisciplinary working - gender - race in medicine - eugenics - genetics - popular science writing - teaching and pedagogy - digital learning - digital teaching - digital humanities

Other activities

Dr Heggie is a member of the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine; the Humanities section of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, the Archives + History section of the Physiological Society; and the editorial board of the British Journal for the History of Science and Isis

In the past she has acted as the Book Reviews Editor for Social History of Medicine (2014-2020) and has sat on the History of Medicine section of the British Science Association (2013-16).


Recent publications


Heggie, V 2022, 極地探検で立証される 人体の限界. translated by Nobuko Ito, Newton Press. <https://www.newtonpress.co.jp/book/shinsho/20221116_LimitsOfHumanBody.html>

Heggie, V 2021, In alto e al gelo: storie di fisiologia estrema e di esplorazioni. translated by Daria Cavallini, Codice Edizioni. <https://www.codiceedizioni.it/libri/in-alto-e-al-gelo-2/>

Heggie, V 2019, Health, gender and inequality in sport A historical perspective. Springer Verlag.

Heggie, V 2019, Higher & colder: a history of extreme physiology and exploration. University of Chicago Press. <https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo41676188.html>


Heggie, V 2023, 'Medicine in the field: Growing connections between environmental and medical history', History Compass. https://doi.org/10.1111/hic3.12786

Heggie, V 2019, 'Blood, race and indigenous peoples in twentieth century extreme physiology', History & Philosophy of the Life Sciences, vol. 41, no. 2, 26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-019-0264-z

Heggie, V 2016, 'Bodies, sport and science in the nineteenth century', Past & Present, vol. 231, no. 1, pp. 169-200. https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtw004

Heggie, V 2016, 'Distrust and expertise: Can scientific journals continue as gatekeepers?', Notes and Records. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2016.0031

Heggie, V 2016, 'Higher and colder: The success and failure of boundaries in high altitude and Antarctic research stations', Social Studies of Science, vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 809-832. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312716636249

Heggie, V 2015, 'Women doctors and lady nurses: Class, education and the professionalized victorian woman', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 89, no. 2, pp. 267-292. https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2015.0045

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Heggie, V 2020, Extreme acts: Narratives of balance and moderation at the limits of human performance: in Balancing the self: Medicine, politics and the regulation of health in the twentieth century. in Manchester Open Hive. Manchester University Press. https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526132123.00017

Heggie, V 2014, Subjective Sex: science, medicine and sex tests in sport. in Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality . Routledge, pp. 339-347.


Heggie, V 2022, Physiology and biomedicine on high-altitude expeditions (c.1880-1980). in M Armiero, R Biasillo & S Morosini (eds), Rethinking Geographical Explorations in Extreme Environments: From the Arctic to the Mountaintops . 1st edn, Routledge Explorations in Environmental Studies, Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003095965-8

Heggie, V 2021, Food. in R Cooter & J Reinarz (eds), A Cultural History of Medicine in the Age of Empire (1800-1920). 1st edn, vol. 5, The Cultural Histories Series, Bloomsbury. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/cultural-history-of-medicine-9781472569875/>


Heggie, V 2020, 'Introduction: blood/food/climate-physiology/nation/race', History & Philosophy of the Life Sciences, vol. 42, no. 1, 10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-020-0303-9

View all publications in research portal


History, history of science, history of medicine, sport, Antarctica, exploration, Everest