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School of History

Dr Andrew Mendelsohn


Reader in History of Science and Medicine

Room Number: ArtsTwo 3.05


I joined QMUL in 2012 with 20 years of international academic experience. I studied at Harvard and Princeton, taught in five countries. I held a position at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, with which I continue to collaborate. I also worked at Imperial College London, where I served as head of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.


Research Interests:

I seek to understand the changing ways we know and make our world, where these ways come from and what their politics are, and with what consequences.

I pursued these questions in German, French, British, and U.S. history, from the 16th through the 20th centuries.  This began with medicine’s bacteriological revolution, about which there was a story of triumph of one way of knowing, that of laboratory “reductionism.”  Instead I showed “two cultures” within one science and its equivocal legacy in 20th-century biomedicine. 

Working outward from bacteriologists as experts and makers (Pasteur: from wine to vaccines), I now study the development of inquiry outside the sciences – in governance and production.  Observation and reasoning by physicians in their juridical and administrative roles is a current focus.  .


  • How physicians know, 1500-1950: I am co-leading with Volker Hess a five-year, ERC-funded research project under this title and welcome inquiries from scholars at all levels interested in being associates or guests of the project; see the project website (link is external). The project involves a cooperation agreement between QMUL and Charité University Medicine Berlin where the project is based.


  • Ways of writing and knowing: history of scholarly, administrative, commercial, and other writing practices (‘paper technology’) and their uses and effects in medicine, natural history, and the Baconian sciences.


  • Observation at large: in medicine, agriculture, industry, and government – beyond the scientific disciplines – and observation-related practices of experimenting, classifying, explaining, predicting


  • Industrializing life and its sciences (plant, animal, microbial), 18th-20th centuries


  • ‘Science without laws’ – knowing from cases, models, exemplary materials


Edited volumes



  • Science and the City, ed. with S. Dierig and J. Lachmund (Osiris 18; University of Chicago Press, 2003).  Reviewed in Isis 96, 2005, p. 419; Urban Studies 42, 2005, pp. 179-81; Urban History Review 33 (link is external), 2004.



Peer-reviewed articles and chapters

















  • “Das wilde Gehirn: Über Natur und Kultur im Zeitalter des Strukturalismus,” in Ecce Cortex: Beiträge zur Geschichte des modernen Gehirns (link is external), ed. Michael Hagner (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 1999), pp. 286-316.  “The Savage Brain: On Nature and Culture in the Age of Structuralism.”  This is a study of the relations between the natural and social sciences in the 20th century, focusing especially on structural anthropology and Claude Lévi-Strauss and on linguistics and Roman Jakobson.





  • “‘Typhoid Mary’ Strikes Again: The Social and the Scientific in the Making of Modern Public Health,” Isis 86 (link is external) (1995), pp. 268-277




Selected other articles




  • Review of Peter Baldwin, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930 (Cambridge University Press), in Journal of Modern History 76 (2004), pp. 940-43.


  • Review of Karl-Heinz Leven, Die Geschichte der Infektionskrankheiten: Von der Antike bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, in Isis 90 (link is external)(1999), pp. 351-52.


Editorial Positions 

Advisory Editor, Isis (link is external), 2000-2003


I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

• Governance, experts, and publics in early modern and modern Europe

• Knowledge in production (agriculture, pharmacy, mining, industry)

• Science, policy, and politics of health and disease, 19th-20th centuries

• History of inquiry, reasoning, evidence, and the case in medicine and law; projects at intersections between medical and legal history

• History of environmental sciences, projects at intersections of environmental history and history of science

• Other topics in history of the medical, human, and life sciences