Dr Vanessa Heggie FRHS

Dr Vanessa Heggie

Institute of Applied Health Research
Senior Lecturer 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 physiology and scientific exploration. 

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, and debating her research on sports doping and ethics at a live event at the London School of Economics.


  • 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 Archives + History section of the Physiological Society; and the editorial board of the British Journal for the History of Science.

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 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 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

Heggie, V 2014, 'Why isn’t exploration a science?', Isis, vol. 105, no. 2, pp. 318-334. https://doi.org/10.1086/676569

Heggie, V 2013, 'Experimental physiology, Everest and oxygen: from the ghastly kitchens to the gasping lung', The British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 46, no. 01, pp. 123-147. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087412000775

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 2012, Volunteers for Science: Medicine, Health and the Modern Olympic Games. in Perfect Bodies: Sports, Medicine and Immortality Ancient and Modern . British Museum Research Publication , British Museum Press.


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

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