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Dr Harriet Palfreyman

Research Profile

2008 - 2012 PhD History 'Visualising Venereal Disease in London', University of Warwick (Wellcome Trust funded)

Nov/Dec 2011 Predoctoral Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

2007 - 2008 MA Social History of Medicine, University of Warwick (Wellcome Trust funded)

2004 - 2007 BA (Hons) History (1st Class), University of Warwick

Picturing the Pox: A (Very) Brief History

A short video created for the History of Medicine in Motion conference (UCL, 2009) introducing some of my research.

Current Research Interests

I am fascinated by the visual culture of medicine. The enormous amount of trust we place in twenty-first century visualization technologies such as X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound scans, the widespread use of photographic atlases and computer-generated models in the teaching of medical practitioners, and even the public’s abounding interest in exhibitions of plastinated human bodies suggests an inherent ‘visuality’ to modern medicine. What interests me is identifying how images, models, and preserved remains came to possess such centrality in our understanding of our bodies, health and disease.

pox victim

My other driving interest is the history of infectious diseases, particularly the construction of medical knowledge about diseases. However rather than just studying the changing ideas about disease, I seek to uncover the people, practices, and places that interacted to create new knowledge.

I am currently in the early stages of devising a project that will marry these two interests - on the history of pathological images in the nineteenth century. As medical thinking moved away from a preoccupation with humoural balance and toward a conception of diseases as separate entities with visible, physical locations in bodily tissues, images of disease symptoms began to emerge as vital in the creation and dissemination of medical thinking.


Contact Me

Department of History
University of Warwick

Harriet dot Palfreyman at warwick dot ac dot uk

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