At a time when human caused changes to the global climate threatens the future of our societies; when local epidemics may quickly become global via the international food market or tourism; when the very basis of science has become politicized even as society depends on new scientific discoveries and technological inventions; and when algorithms operating in a ‘big data’ economy have become central to decision-making in health, government, education, and our social lives, the importance of science, technology, and medicine to daily life, the economy, politics, social relations, identity, and state and global power is obvious. Although these developments are often perceived as historic for being new, each has a history of its own. The Department of History offers exciting opportunities to examine the historical basis for a number of central topics in science, technology and medicine, including racial science, health insurance, biology and environmental sciences, research ethics, psychology and neuroscience, reproductive technologies, indigenous knowledge, and new information media in historical light.



Professors Claudia Brosseder, Teri Chettiar, Jerry DávilaRana A HogarthBob Morrissey, Leslie J. ReaganDavid Sepkoski, and Roderick Wilson are the core faculty in the field. They direct graduate research in the histories of public health, medicine, psychiatry, biology, environmental science, media and film, data and information technology, global science, and science and health policy.  The department has particular strength in exploring ways in which subjective values about gender, race, sexuality, and class have shaped the histories of science, technology and medicine, as well as the influences of scientific and medical thought in shaping lived experiences of marginalization.  Graduate courses treat a variety of topics, among them, Biology and Society; Science and Technology During the Cold War; Diseases, Epidemics, and Society; History and Theory of Reproduction; Medicine and Law; Bodies, Sexuality, and Health; Comparative Public Health; Race and Medicine; Bioethics; Disabilities; Historiography of Science and Medicine, Medicine and the Movies; Madness and Society; Sex and Science; and History of Information.

The History Department at Illinois has a significant institutional commitment to history of science, technology, and medicine, including dedicated funding opportunities (graduate fellowships and assistantships), events, and other resources for students with interests in this area.  Graduate students find that the field of science, technology and medicine readily lends itself to studying history through a variety of innovative and interdisciplinary methods as well as comparative and transnational frameworks.  Dissertation topics are wide-ranging, including leprosy and the American Empire; the environment and health in the U.S. West; birth control clinics; the atomic bomb; venereal disease films; bioethics and medical experimentation in the global south; psychiatry and race; nutrition and hygiene in Germany; ecology and race in the Indian Ocean world; children with disabilities; sex education; and rivers and people in nineteenth-century St. Petersburg. Our students have been awarded prestigious national grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC), and the Pew foundation, as well as University and other fellowships for their research. 

Core Faculty

  • Claudia Brosseder, colonial and pre-colonial Andes, indigenous knowledge, early modern transatlantic history of knowledge, astrology, natural history, and theology
  • Teri Chettiar, psychology and psychiatry, trauma studies, disability studies, gender and sexuality, political activism, 20th-century Britain and Europe
  • Jerry Davila, Brazil, African Diaspora, race and ethnicity, public health, and eugenics.
  • Rana A.Hogarth, public health; eighteenth and nineteenth century medicine, African Diaspora, slavery and medicine, race, eugenics, health disparities.
  • Leslie J. Reagan, women, gender, and sexuality; medicine and public health; reproduction and the body; disability studies; health films and photography; museums and memory; 20th-century U.S.; American-Vietnam War and Agent Orange.
  • Bob Morrissey: environmental science / ecology, indigenous knowledge, climate science
  • David Sepkoski, evolutionary biology, environmental science, data and information, science and politics
  • Roderick Wilson, humans and natural habitats in Japan, engineering and water.


Faculty in Other Departments with related research interests

  • Karen Flynn (Gender and Women’s Studies and African-American Studies) Migration and travel; Black Canada; Diasporic and post-colonial studies; health; nursing; popular culture.
  • Samantha Frost (Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies) feminist theory and biology; the body.
  • Stephanie M. Hilger (Germanic Languages and Literatures, Comparative and World Literature, Gender and Women’s Studies) Intersexuality, gender, the body, European medicine. 
  • Jonathan Inda (Latina/o Studies, Anthropology) race and medicine; pharmaceuticals; science.
  • Natalie Lira (Latina/o Studies) Disability Studies; politics of reproduction; Chicana feminism; histories of racial and reproductive justice; medicine and public health.
  • Bonnie Mak, (Information Sciences and Medieval Studies), Manuscript, print, and digital cultures; the production and circulation of knowledge; manuscript studies; book history; medieval and early modern collecting; history of archives and libraries

  • Ruby Mendenhall (Sociology, African-American Studies, Institute for Genomic Biology) single Black mothers, health.

  • Daniel Schneider, (Urban and Regional Planning), environmental history, ecology, limnology, urban pests.

  • Edna Viruell-Fuentes (Latina/o Studies) public health; health and well-being of Latina/os; racialization and discrimination of immigrants.

Emeriti Faculty

  • Richard Burkhardt (History) history of biology, Parisian zoo. 
  • Lillian Hoddeson (History) physics, Big Science, oral history.
  • Evan Melhado (History, College of Medicine) history of chemistry, health insurance, Europe and U.S.
  • Mark Micale (History)
  • Paula Treichler (Institute for Communications Research, Gender and Women’s Studies, College of Medicine) condoms, AIDS, gender, and media.

Other Campus Projects and Resources

Graduate education in the field is further enriched through shared cross-disciplinary intellectual projects—such as neuroscience and history research on collective memory and a collaborative exhibition of graphic arts from the 1970s women’s health movement—reading groups, and courses with faculty and students in other disciplines.  Those include African American Studies, Art and Design, English, the Institute for Communications Research (ICR), Gender and Women's Studies Program (GWS), Latina/Latino Studies, Library and Information Science, and Urban and Regional Planning. The history department hosts an interdisciplinary reading group with graduate students and professors on medicine, science and visual media. 

The University of Illinois Library is the third largest academic library in the United States; it holds government documents, full runs of medical and scientific journals, newspapers, an advertisement collection, film, and archival records from all parts of the globe.  Other resources include:  the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), the IPRH BioHumanities Initiative, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications; the Beckman Institute; the College of Medicine; and the Advanced Information Technologies Group. Finally, researchers enjoy proximity to state, local, and a variety of medical and science archives in the state capitol and Chicago.