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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Dr Robert G W Kirk



I studied History and History of Science at Lancaster University (UK), where I developed an interest in the role of the life sciences in shaping how we understand ourselves as human beings. Moving to the then Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, I began to study the interconnectedness of human and nonhuman animals within scientific cultures. In 2006, having completed a PhD at the then Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London (UCL), I joined the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM) at the University of Manchester.

Using history as my empirical base, I draw eclectically on the conceptual and methodological tools of Science Technology Studies, animal studies and most recently disability studies, to produce distinctive interdisciplinary contributions to history and the medical humanities. I study the social, cultural, material and economic factors that facilitate and constrain medical and scientific practice and innovation, from national, international and transnational perspectives, primarily across the twentieth century. A core research theme is an attempt to understand the place of nonhuman animals in health, medicine and society.

My work explores questions of how science shapes and has shaped our understandings of nonhuman animals and our relations to them across time and place. My work on animal research has been published in Studies in the History of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2008) and Isis (2010). This work informs an ongoing collaboration to develop an interdisciplinary and international network investigating the potential of the humanities and social sciences to contribute to laboratory animal research.

In 2009, supported by the Animals and Society Institute (USA), I was a Visiting Research Fellow at Duke University Program in Women's Studies. This allowed me to develop an understanding of how the emerging field of 'Animal Studies' can productively inform the history of science, technology and medicine. In 2010, supported by the European Science Foundation, I visited the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (Univeristy of Oslo).

At Manchester I continue to work on the history of the biomedical sciences and health, whilst developing new avenues of research investigating how changing human-nonhuman relations shape, and are shaped by, the material, social and representational practices of science, technology and medicine, always with ethical consequence.


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