Dr Vanessa Heggie BSc MSc PhD

Dr Vanessa Heggie

Institute of Applied Health Research
Senior Lecturer

Contact details

+44 0121 415 8184
Press & media enquires
Murray Learning Centre
Social Studies in Medicine (SSiM)
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Vanessa Heggie is a Senior Lecturer.

Vanessa is a historian of modern science and medicine, with a particular interest in the history of nineteenth and twentieth century health and life sciences. She has published a book on the history of sports medicine, and over a dozen papers on a range of topics from Victorian nursing and public health, to the science of mountaineering. Vanessa is currently working on the history of physiology and scientific exploration.

You can hear her talking about her research in this Ideas Lab Predictor Podcast.

She has been awarded a range of grants and awards, including a Mellon Teaching Fellowship, and grants from the Isaac Newton Trust and the Wellcome Trust.

She is also the co-author of The H-Word, a blog about the history of science hosted by the Guardian.


  • PhD History of Medicine, 2004
  • MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine, 2001
  • BSc (Hons) Genetics, 2000


Vanessa studied genetics as an undergraduate at the University of Manchester, before going on to graduate study in the History of Science and Medicine at the Centre for History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) in Manchester.

Her PhD (2004) was a study of Victorian and Edwardian ideas about health and fears about degeneration, including studies of the Vegetarian Society and local immigrant populations. This led to a Research Associateship on a Wellcome Trust project exploring the history of sports medicine at CHSTM which resulted in her first book ‘A History of British Sports Medicine’ (Manchester University Press, 2011).

Vanessa then took up a series of teaching and research posts at the Department of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, funded by the Mellon Foundation, Isaac Newton trust, and Wellcome Trust


In its broadest sense, Vanessa’s research concentrates on understandings of the human body and its interaction with the social and natural environment. This includes an examination of categories (e.g. sex, race) and boundaries (e.g. healthy/unhealthy, pathological/normal).

In particular she works on the history of modern western medicine, c.1850 to present day, and affiliated sciences, especially the history of physiology and of public health. She is currently working on a second book ‘on the ways in which athletes and sportsmen have been involved in medical experiments and scientific studies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Vanessa is also researching into the history of scientific exploration – particularly the development of extreme physiology, wilderness medicine, and the role of science and medicine in expeditions to extraordinary environments (high-altitude, polar regions, etc.)



Heggie. V. (2011 hbk; 2013 pbk) A History of British Sports Medicine (Manchester University Press)

Articles & Book chapters

Heggie, V. (2014) “Critiques and Contentions: Why Isn’t Exploration a Science?” Isis105, 318-34.

Heggie, V. (2013) “Experimental Physiology, Everest and Oxygen: from the Ghastly Kitchens to the Gasping Lung” British Journal of the History of Science 46, 123-147

Heggie, V. (2011) “Domestic and domesticating education in the Victorian and Edwardian City” History of Education 40, 273-90.

Heggie, V. (2011) “Health Visiting and District Nursing in Victorian Manchester; divergent and convergent vocations” Women’s History Review 20, 403-22

Heggie, V. (2010) “Specialisation without the hospital: the case of British sports medicine” Medical History 54, 457-74

Heggie, V. (2010) “A Century of Cardiomythology: Exercise and the Heart c.1880-1980” Social History of Medicine 23,280-298

Heggie, V. 2010) “Testing sex and gender in sports; reinventing, reimagining and reconstructing histories” Endeavour 34, 157-63.