Items tagged with: Announcement


We were saddened to learn of the death of Professor Herbert Gilles last month. Prof Gilles was a memorable contributor to our Wellcome Witness Seminar 'British Contributions to Medical Research and Education in Africa after the Second World War'.
Our Image of the Month shows Professor Roger Jones at our Wellcome Witness Seminar 'Peptic Ulcer: Rise and Fall'
In advance of the publication of our Wellcome Witness Seminar volume on 'The Recent History of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)', and the 30th anniversary of his landmark paper on the condition, we have some video interviews with Professor Norman Rosenthal available via our YouTube channel:

"What's new!?" A commemoration of the life and legacy of Sir Christopher Booth.

A video of the event held at the Royal College of Physicians, London, Thursday December 6th, 2012, is now available on YouTube. Speakers include the former Director of the Wellcome Trust, and current UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport.

Volume 55 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series, 'A History of Bovine TB c.1965–c.2000' is now available to download free of charge here

A printed copy can be ordered from;; and all good booksellers for £6/$10 plus postage.

'Clinical Molecular Genetics in the UK c.1975–c.2000' is volume 48 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series. This latest volume is now freely available online (pdf).

'Human Gene Mapping Workshops c.1973-c.1991' is the latest publication in our Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series. A .pdf copy is available from our website, completely free of charge:

'Migraine: Diagnosis, Treatment and Understanding c.1960–2010' is volume 49 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series. This latest volume is now freely available online (pdf).

We congratulate our colleague Emma M. Jones on the appearance of her first book, 'Parched City' (Zero Books, ISBN: 978-1-78099-158-0), which is an account of drinking water habits and obsessions told through architectural, social and environmental perspectives gleaned from London's rich archives.

We are delighted to announce the latest publication in our Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine oral history series, 'Technology, Techniques, and Technicians at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) c.1960-c.2000', is now available to download for free from this website.

A new volume of Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine is freely available to download:

The Development of Brain Banks in the UK c.1970–c.2010


'The Development of Narrative Practices in Medicine c.1960–c.2000' is the latest publication in our Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series. You can download a copy - completely free of charge - from our website, here:

We are delighted to announce that our ‘Today’s Neuroscience, Tomorrow’s History’ video oral history material  is being used by The Open University (OU) as content for their ‘DD210 Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary’.  DD210 is a 2nd level degree Social Science module.

A photograph from Professor Tansey's recent visit to Russia.

We are delighted to announce the publication of the 50th volume in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series on the 21st anniversary of the firs

The 29th February is known to be the traditional day on which women are allowed to propose to men; it is also the day on which many people finally celebrate a delayed, and apparently youthful, birthday. A friend of mine today celebrates his 24th birthday, although chronologically he is in his mid-90s.

History of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), c.1980-2000On Sunday 8 April, The Observer's ‘Discover’ supplement published a Health Research feature entitled ‘The Bristol babies who are unlocking the secrets of life’ .

The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group have been invited to present the next Big Question lecture: 'Drugs: Medical Marvels or Malevolent Molecules?'

We are working with members of Young Roots, a Heritage Lottery-funded project aimed at engaging young people with the medical history of East London. This event is being organised in association with our colleagues at Centre of the Cell, and the talk will be held in their Perrin Lecture Theatre on Tuesday, 1 April 2014, from 18:00 to 19:00. Tickets are free, but you must register in advance via Eventbrite:

Professor Tansey’s review of ‘The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl’ is a Top 10 choice in Nature magazine’s pick of Books & Arts coverage of 2014. The book, by Arthur Allen, is subtitled ‘How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis’, and is a fascinating account of Polish biologists Rudolf Weigl and Ludwik Fleck, and their work in vaccine research in war-ravaged Europe.

For those with a British Journal of Hospital Medicine subscription, Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine volume 42, 'History of British Intensive Care, c. 1950-c.2000', has been reviewed in the current issue of BJHM (May 2012, Vol 73, No 5, pp 297).

Trade exhibitions are major parts of any modern scientific conference. The ‘Festival of Neuroscience’ organised by the British Neuroscience Association at the Barbican in London in April 2013 attracted more than 70 exhibitors demonstrating cutting edge technology over two floors of the Barbican Exhibition halls.

Professor Tilli Tansey and Dr Apostolos Zarros are organising a Research Topic / eBook in collaboration with “Frontiers in Pharmacology” (IF = 4.418) on “Pharmaceutical innovation after World War II: from rational drug discovery to biopharmaceuticals”.

This Sunday (8th June), Professor Tilli Tansey will be speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival on "How War Changed Medicine".

Full details are available from the event website, here:

We're delighted to announce the winner of our 'Young Discoverers' public engagement day colouring competition is... Jumima Rahman.

Jumima is a Year 6 pupil at Globe Primary School, Bethnal Green and wins a £15 Amazon voucher. We were very impressed by her colourful peak-flow meter!

Wonderful news that Professor Anne Johnson was created a DBE in the Birthday Honours list. Professor Johnson participated in our 'History of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles' volume, and wrote the introduction to ‘History of Cervical Cancer and the Role of the Human Papillomavirus, 1960–2000’.

We were sad to hear of the death of Lord John Walton, the eminent neurologist, who so memorably chaired our Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'Clinical Research in Britain, 1950-1980'. Our thoughts are with his family.

A physician who pioneered renal dialysis, and in particular home dialysis, has died recently.

Sir John Batten, who died recently (; was a key contributor to our Witness Seminar on ‘Cystic fibrosis’ (CF).

We were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the early death of Dr Anne Szarewski. She was an important contributor to the Witness Seminar held on ‘History of Cervical Cancer and the Role of the Human Papillomavirus, 1960–2000’. Dr Szarewski and her colleagues spoke in particular of the importance of HPV testing. Tellingly her contributions were lauded more by her peers than by Dr Szarewski herself.

Our deepest condolences go to her family and friends.

Dr Jane Somerville on BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Disks'

Congratulations to Dr Jane Somerville on her appearance on BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Disks' on Sunday. Dr Somerville participated in the Wellcome Witness seminar on 'Early Heart Transplant Surgery in the UK' back in June 1997. A transcript of this meeting can be downloaded completely free of charge here:
Early Heart Transplant Surgery in the UK

Members of our Group are looking forward to attending the Workshop on the History of Human Genetics at The European Human Genetics Conference in Glasgow. We will be presenting a poster, and Professor Tansey giving the plenary lecture at 9am on Saturday 6th June.

We are guest blogging for the National Centre for Social Research on the history of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes & Lifestyles.

You can read the blog piece online here:

Today (Wednesday 11th March) is national No Smoking Day. We are guest blogging for Wellcome Library, examining debates over smoking and health within the medical profession.

Professor Tansey will be taking part in the 'Health, Lies & Video Tape' public health film screenings in Birmingham this Monday, 8th September. This is an Academy of Medical Sciences event, supported by the Wellcome Trust, as part of the British Science Festival. Follow #health2040 on Twitter for updates.

The Physiological Society have written about our project on their website:

The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group was represented at a recent Home Office meeting on ‘Animals in Science’. Tilli Tansey spoke of  ‘A journey through time - 1876 to 1986’, discussing the impact and operation of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876.

We are delighted to announce that our own Professor Tilli Tansey OBE has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine for her ‘outstanding achievements and distinguished career in the field of medical history’ by the University of Sheffield.  The degree will be conferred at a ceremony in January 2016. Tilli already holds BSc, PhD, and DSc degrees from Sheffield, plus a PhD from the University of London.

Professor Tilli Tansey has been elected to Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of the History of Medicine of the Society of Apothecaries, in 'recognition of the extensive work done in the past supporting the activities of the faculty'.

Tilli has previously served as Meetings Secretary, Lecturer, Examiner and Deputy President of the Faculty.

Professor Tilli Tansey recently received an honorary MD from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sheffield, "awarded in recognition of her outstanding achievements and distinguished career in the field of medical history". Both the valediction from the Public Orator and Professor Tansey's reply emphasised the importance of the Wellcome Trust in encouraging her to transfer from the neuroscience research laboratory to medical history.

Professor Tilli Tansey has been elected to Honorary Membership of the Physiological Society for 'her many contributions to the advancement of physiology as the Honorary Archivist of the Physiological Society and for her work on the Makers of Modern Biomedicine project'.

The Physiological Society awards Honorary Membership to individuals who are 'persons of distinction in science who have contributed to the advancement of physiology or to the work of The Society'. Charles Darwin was the first Honorary member when the Society was founded in 1876.

All fifty volumes in the 'Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine' seriesAn image depicting the front covers of all fifty volumes in the series 'Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine'.

Compliments of the Season to all our website visitors. Our special anniversary 50th volume 'Monoclonal Antibodies to Migraine' is suitable for every doctor's Christmas stocking.

We were saddened to hear of the death of Dr W. Alan Jennings last month. Dr Jennings developed conformal radiotherapy at the Royal Northern Hospital, London. He was a founder member of the Hospital Physicists’ Association and became its President (1966–7).

Our Image of the Month shows Dr Chris Derrett demonstrating the use of microscopes to the 'Young Discoverers' at our Public Engagement event at the Globe Primary School, Bethnal Green, London, on 30th March 2017.

Our Image of the Month depicts Dr Mark Weatherall, chairing our Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'Migraine: Diagnosis, Treatment and Understanding c.1960–2010'. 

Our Image of the Month shows Dr Sheila Callender at the Witness Seminar 'Intestinal Absorption'. 

Our image of the month shows Dr William Notcutt at our Wellcome Witness seminar ‘The Medicalization of Cannabis’. After qualifying from Birmingham University and working as a flying doctor in Lesotho, Dr Notcutt took up anaesthesia.

Our image of the month shows two key participants at our Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'Foot and Mouth Disease: The 1967 outbreak and its aftermath': (l -r) Lord Plumb and Miss Mary Brancker. 

Our image of the month shows Professor Heather Cubie at our Wellcome Witness seminar on 'History of Cervical Cancer and the Role of the Human Papillomavirus, 1960-2000'.

Our image of the month shows Professor Josephine Arendt at our Wellcome Witness seminar on 'The Recent History of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)'.

Our image of the month shows the late Professor Owen Lyndon Wade at our Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'Clinical Pharmacology in the UK, c. 1950–2000: Industry and regulation'. Professor Wade is probably best known for his work on the British National Formulary (BNF) widely regarded as the 'bible' by GPs and those who prescribe and dispense medicines in the UK.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Bert Bakker at our Wellcome Witness Seminar 'Clinical Molecular Genetics in the UK c.1975–c.2000'.

Professor Bakker has also made memorable contributions to our Witness Seminar on 'Human Gene Mapping Workshops c.1973-c.1991'.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Kate Bushby at the Witness Seminar on ‘The Therapeutic Implications of Muscular Dystrophy Genomics’.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Margaret Esiri at our Wellcome Witness Seminar 'The Development of Brain Banks in the UK c.1970–c.2010'

Professor Michael Freeman at the Witness Seminar on, 'Early development of Total Hip replacement' held by the History of Biomedicine Research Group, 14/03/2006.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Roger Strasser at the Witness Seminar on ‘The Development of Rural Medicine 1970–2000’, the transcript of which is available in ‘Historical Perspectives on Rural Medicine’.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Seth Love at the Witness Seminar 'The Development of Brain Banks in The UK 1970–2010'.

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Shirley Hodgson at the Witness Seminar on 'Clinical Genetics in Britain: Origins and Development

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Sir Marc Feldmann and Professor Sir Ravinder Nath (Tiny) Maini at the Witness Seminar 'The Recent History of Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF)'

Our Image of the Month shows Professor Tony Coxon at the Witness Seminar 'History of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles'.

Our Image of the Month shows Sir Douglas Black at the Witness Seminar ‘Clinical Research in Britain, 1950–1980’.

With the cold, dark winter days still with us, our image of the month shows Prof Norman Rosenthal  and Prof Jo Arendt at our Witness Seminar on ‘The Recent History of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

To mark World Cancer Day (February 4th) our image of the month shows Professor Sir Kenneth Calman.

Tilli Tansey contributed to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'The End of Drug Discovery'. Originally broadcast on Tuesday 22nd May, you can now listen to the recording via the BBC iPlayer:

An important new resource for obituary and biographical information about members of the Physiological Society has just been launched.

It contains obituary notices, biographical features and oral history interviews and several original photographs of the interview subjects.

We are pleased to announce that Mr Andy Mabbett, FRSA, will be working with us as Wikimedian in Residence for our project. Andy has previously worked as Wikimedian in Residence with a number of organisations, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, ORCID, and TED Conferences, in addition to authoring several books chronicling the band Pink Floyd.

Positions vacant: we are looking to recruit a Postdoctoral Research Assistant to join the team.

A Postdoctoral Research Assistant position is available at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) with Professor Tilli Tansey and the History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group.

QMUL is one of the UK's leading research-focused higher education institutions, with a budget of £285 million per annum.

Positions vacant: we are looking to recruit a Senior/Research Assistant to join the team.

History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group

Research Assistant

The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group were invited to showcase some of our work at the launch of QMUL's Life Sciences Institute.

Professor Tansey has co-edited a new book to mark the 100th anniversary of The Physiological Society formally admitting women as members.

'Women physiologists: Centenary celebrations and beyond' is available now. Further details can be found here.

We are pleased to announce the availability of the first in a series of individual interviews with medical geneticists, undertaken at the Sixth International Workshop on the History of Human Genetics, the European Society of Human Genetics conference, 6th June 2015, Glasgow UK.

The initial interviewee is Dr Patrick MacLeod. You can find the videos, along with links to the transcripts, here:

We are delighted that our colleagues in the Library here at Queen Mary have chosen to showcase our 'Digital Collection' of research outputs on their Research Support Blog. The article emphasises the multimedia capabilities of Queen Mary Research Online (QMRO), using our material to highlight the potential of the institutional repository, and also our commitment to Open Access and ensuring that our material on the history of recent biomedicine will be available in perpetuity.

Our Research Group has been profiled for Queen Mary University's 'QMUL People' column, the first time a group has been chosen to be featured rather than an individual member of staff. 

For users within QM, the piece is available via 'Connect' on Queen Mary's intranet here.

Those who wish to read the article but are situated outside the Queen Mary domain can access a .pdf of the article here.

Professor Tilli Tansey and Dr Apostolos Zarros will be representing the Group when they present our poster (096) 'Physiology at the heart of modern biomedicine: evidence through oral testimonies' at Physiology 2016 in Dublin tomorrow (Friday 29/07/16). We wish all attendees an enjoyable and productive conference.

Our latest set of video oral history interviews, with endocrinologist Prof Josephine Arendt of the University of Surrey, are now available here:


A photograph of Prof Tansey receiving her Honorary Fellowship of the faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy, of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. The venue is Apothecaries’ Hall, City of London. Shown (l-r): The Master Apothecary, Dr John Moore-Gillon, Professor Tilli Tansey, President of the Faculty, Dr Tina Matthews.

Prof Tansey's article on 'Women and the early Journal of Physiology' is available online via open access using the following link:

The sad news has reached us of the death of Professor Robert Steiner. Professor Steiner was a distinguished pioneer radiologist, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at the University of London from 1961 to 1983. He attended and contributed to our Wellcome Witness seminar on Peptic Ulcer, and ably chaired the meeting we held on NMR and MRI. He will be much missed by friends and colleagues alike.

We congratulate Professor Robin Eady who was awarded an MBE in the recent New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Tilli Tansey receiving the Paton Prize of the Physiological Society from the President, Professor Richard Vaughan JonesProfessor Tilli Tansey (QMUL School of History) was recently awarded the Paton Prize of the Physiological Society at a meeting to celebrate 100 years

We’re delighted to announce that Professor Tilli Tansey has been elected to Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine. This award is made to ‘persons who have eminently distinguished themselves in the service of medicine and the branches of science allied to it’. 

Many congratulations to our own Professor Tilli Tansey! Awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

Tilli was recognised for services to Research in the Medical Sciences & Public Understanding of Science. A wonderful and well-deserved accolade!

Professor Airat U Ziganshin (Vice-rector, and head of international affairs), Professor Tilli Tansey, Professor Alexei S Sozinov (Rector)Professor Sozinov, formerly

We are pleased to announce the publication of volume 47 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series, ‘Drugs Affecting 5-HT Systems’.

The new volume is available to download as a .pdf document, completely free of charge, from our website here.

We are delighted to announce the publication of volume 46 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series,'Clinical Cancer Genetics: Polyposis and Familial Colorectal Cancer c.1975–c.2010'

The volume may be downloaded as a .pdf, completely free of charge, here.

We are pleased to announce the publication of Volume 45 in the Wellcome Witnesses to Twentieth Century Medicine series, 'Palliative Medicine in the UK c.1970-2010'.

The new volume is available to download as a .pdf document, completely free of charge, from our website: here.

We have recently witnessed the eruption of what might be called 'Pyjamagate', when the headteacher of Skerne Park Academy in Darlington wrote to parents asking that they dress properly  when dropping off and collecting their children - too many were doing the school run in their nightwear, and she pleaded  for them to set good examples to their offspring

Laziness is the mother of good science. Creation comes from moments when you don’t have anything to do. When you have no teaching, and basic admin, and extra commitments are seen to interfere with research, what if you have strong motivation, and don’t know what to do? If you are teaching, you can fill your gaps by teaching, but researchers have to fill the gaps with thoughts.

The Northwick Park Hospital was being designed... and there were two other things which were mentioned and thought about, but some of them never eventuated. One was the importance of isolation of people who are producing and shedding organisms which are resistant. We were in favour of having isolation rooms in the hospital, but this was very unfashionable and thought to be retrograde. The days when you had to worry about infection were in the past and not something which the 1970s hospital needed to concern itself with!
Now I know that Defra have the prize-winning Twitter team. They use Twitter more skilfully than any other government department, which I think is really interesting. And I also know that the NFU (National  Farmers Union) put in place a Twitter mechanism and encourage their county chairs to use Twitter. These are really big changes – this technology didn’t exist in the early part of the period that we’re reviewing. But nevertheless it is about social engagement and it’s about trying to influence policy, which is based on something very complicated.

A large trolley was wheeled around the wards, which had the monitoring apparatus, the ECG, the blood gas analysis and so on, and much recording apparatus. Ron and I – I had the privilege of working with him then – were deemed the ‘death watch beetles’, because unfortunately we weren’t always successful. Dr Margaret BranthwaiteHistory of British Intensive Care, c.1950–c.2000

What dialysis did as regards the changing attitudes to patients: I remember clearly the business of sharing accommodation between males and females and we were having to defend ourselves to the matron. She was astonished that we had put a female patient with a male patient for dialysis. We said: ‘Do you want her to die or do you want her to live? It’s as simple as that.’ Dr Rosemarie Baillod, History of Dialysis in the UK: c. 1950-1980.

That was always a problem at Christmas because people would put a Christmas tree down. What would be the easiest way to put a Christmas tree into an 18ft gap, you would put it in root first so that the branches, but now the branches have opened up inside, refuse has gone inside and gone on top and added weight to those branches and now it becomes a blocked chute. So people keep putting refuse in so the refuse is piled up with a Christmas tree stopping it and someone has to unblock the chute.

While we’re talking about the Christmas party for the children, which Ian’s talking about, I was organizer for that for I don’t know how many years... The main thing was we had these two entertainers called Naughty Uncle Wally and Aunty Wendy who would come in and they would do the bulk of it. The main problem I had was whether they would turn up... We also had Walt Disney cartoons – this is before television had cartoons on. We used to get those from the Rank Organisation in the Great West Road – they had a place there.

Westminster had 42 major hospitals and clinics within its boundaries at the time and there were no clear guidelines and no definition of who did what with clinical wastes: they just all went in the bin. We had a number of instances where refuse collectors were covered with blood because blood bags would go in the bins and when the compression plate came down it sprayed them. We had needle stick injuries and everything else.

...we had to go up and be what was called ‘desensitized’... We had to go in to the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) office for two days and sit there while every term connected with sexual activities was told to us, because the project managers were concerned that when we all went out to do the interviews, we would come across all these sorts of things and we were not supposed to respond, obviously. We had to be separate from it. Do you remember that? Two days we were there.

… I think we’ve found that the general public, when it becomes aware of post mortem brain research into autism, is very positive about that area of research and also about what they could contribute in terms of control tissue. I think the issues are much more with the autism community in the UK and overcoming some of the misconceptions and fears that are still very strong there. Ms Brenda Nally: The Development of Brain Banks in the UK c.1970–c.2010, pp. 33

I know that Henry Thompson (Surgical Officer, St Mark’s hospital) one day went to visit someone at home who wouldn’t agree to be screened, and Thompson was an Oxford blue boxer and the person that he went to visit was from an East End London boxing family.And he said that he would challenge the man who wouldn’t be screened to a boxing match and the purse would be the examination. So there were lots of stories like that from the early days when the surgeons really went out of their way to find these people.

...we did a series of studies, paid for in part by the Ministry of Health. It was most unusual in those days for the Department to admit that they didn’t know something and to pay us to find the answer, but the sad part was they never paid any attention to the answers that we provided.
One reason why this paper caused a paradigm shift was that the received wisdom was that light did not suppress melatonin in humans and that light did not affect circadian rhythms in humans. The received wisdom then was that social cues were the main synchronizers of human circadian rhythms, that humans had evolved in such a way, that we were so intelligent, that we had risen above control by the light/dark cycle.

... I got home and it was a Friday and The Lancet had arrived in my mail that day. I just picked it up and looked through it and there was a paper in it by Kay Tee Khaw, who was Professor of Clinical Gerontology in Cambridge, on seasonal changes in fibrinogen, which she thought might be due to seasonal infections or something, that allowed for temperature. I just suddenly thought, ‘That’s it! It’s air pollution that is changing fibrinogen. Fibrinogen makes the blood clot and blood clots cause heart attacks.

I remember medicine before the NHS, I had my tonsils out for example. It was an unpleasant experience in a nursing home before the NHS. I remember my mother having to pay the bills of the doctors, and that sort of thing, and I remember my first essay at school, at the age of about six, I was asked to write an essay having been told that doctors were going to be nationalised. I wrote an essay in favour of it. So I’ve always been a great supporter of the NHS...

What was fascinating to me was that medical sociology had, again, no category for the actual experience of being ill. They did epidemiology, they did professionalization of medicine, they did organization of hospitals but…  being ill, simply wasn’t on the academic agenda at that point. Professor Arthur Frank: The Development of Narrative Practices in Medicine c.1960–c.2000, pp. 15

Screening for a genetic disease is often seen as genetic screening in the world out there. It’s not, it’s case identification. Neonatal screening is case identification for management, like screening for non-genetic diseases. What we’re talking about here is screening for identifying carriers in order to inform them of risk, to allow them to manage their risk. Prof Bernadette Modell, Clinical Molecular Genetics in the UK c.1975–c.2000

... the Pill might be causing thrombosis. With some difficulty I organized a national study, picking out all deaths within the childbearing age group that would occur in 1966. I had to wait for them to occur and follow them up. By that time I had recruited a team of field workers – we called them Derrick’s Dolls – they were personable, mostly young, doctors who visited the general practitioners to get the information at first hand, which the doctors appreciated. We got the cause of death from death certificates, and I used the same team to follow up the yellow card reports.

So if I go back perhaps over to the 5-HT3 work we did, that led to the development of anti-emetic drugs, and I think revolutionised the care of cancer patients. You’ve got to remember I never saw these patients. I heard the stories of transformed lives and so on, and they were great. What I did see though were at the time of an economic depression, was the reality of the fact that that work created jobs. I saw teams of people coming in both to the lab work and development work. I saw nurses being employed.

May I share one anecdote that reflects the naivety of the Genetic Nurses and Social Workers Association in the early days? We didn’t know what we were doing and it was decided that a constitution should be established for this new association. But no-one had ever done that before and one of the members of the group was a member of a sailing club and she went and got the constitution for the sailing club and they crossed out ‘sailing’ and put ‘genetic nursing’.

In terms of lessons learnt, it’s totally clear to me that at the beginning of the journey for anti-TNF antibodies... it seemed unachievable clinically to get the required amount of antibodies produced... I think the lesson to be learned from that for us as basic scientists interested in finding new ways to treat diseases is: don’t let yourself be talked down by people telling you, ‘Oh, we cannot make this into a drug.’ Professor Henning WalczakThe Recent History of Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF).

So amongst the other circadian rhythm disturbances one can think about, let me just briefly mention delayed sleep phase syndrome. This is when people have a terrible problem trying to get to sleep at night at a reasonable time and then of course they can’t get up the following day. And David Parkes at King’s and we, together, treated people with this delayed sleep phase syndrome with melatonin to advance them. It worked a treat.

What we were worried about was delivering our professional duty of care, and in other parts of medicine the professional duty of care focused largely on the individual was much better defined than with clinical genetics initially. We were feeling our way, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. And just to talk about giving bad news, in 1966 when I was a house officer, I told a patient who was having a biopsy for what might be Hodgkin disease, I think, I promised that I would tell her the result when she came back from the operation. My consultant was horrified.

But I just can’t imagine how such a drug [as sumatriptan] would be discovered today. First of all if someone said: ‘Well, there are 14 different 5‑HT receptor types and we know that 5‑HT aborts a migraine attack, you go and find the right one.’ You know with just the molecular biology and paucity of whole tissue and in vivo pharmacology, it just wouldn’t work. Then if you have the Clipboard Charlies going around telling you how to run your project and how you should be doing it, that would kill it as well.

A phenomenon was mentioned earlier today about the supposedly strange reaction of one of the original donor relatives who wished to visit the recipient in whom the heart of his daughter beat. It is, in fact, a common reaction. That aspect of organ transplantation has been present since its inception and is very much with us today.

… criticism is so characteristic of nomenclature, it’s always so controversial and people get so het up about it. Their gene is like their baby and everyone always agrees that one gene should only have one name but they are sure it should be theirs. Professor Sue Povey, Human Gene Mapping Workshops c.1973-c.1991, pp. 66-67

At a clinical level one experience that stood out from my houseman days, we admitted patients usually overnight and in the morning had a ward round with the Consultant. And I was talking about this young African boy, he was about in his teens, and he’d come in and I said he was extremely uncooperative, he wouldn’t open his mouth, I couldn’t see what his throat looked like, and I couldn’t examine his abdomen because he was very uncooperative, and wouldn’t relax and so on.
Emerging from Northwick Park Underground station into the 1960s concrete complex which contains St Mark’s Hospital, I am unsure what to find at a world-renowned familial genetics clinic: the Polyposis Registry. I have been invited to look at the registry’s operations by its manager Kay Neale, who was a key contributor to our now-published oral history Witness Seminar on polyposis and familial colorectal cancer.

The latest issue of Wellcome History focusses on medical history research at Queen Mary, University of London. A review of the recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) Witness Seminar can be found on pp. 22. A .pdf copy of the magazine is freely available to download here:

Last Thursday, 3rd November, Tilli Tansey represented the Group at the Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Lord Walton at Westminster Abbey. Lord Walton chaired our meeting on Clinical Research but sadly was unable to attend our final Witness Seminar of Muscular Dystrophy (volume forthcoming), the subject to which he had devoted much of his medical and scientific career.

A Founder member of the History of Modern Biomedicine Group with Professor Tilli Tansey, the late Sir Christopher Booth, has been honoured by his alma mater, the university of St Andrews. A plaque was unveiled by Lady Booth outside the brand new lecture theatre bearing his name and honouring his outstanding achievements in medicine and beyond.

History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group's Facebook pageThe History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group is now on Facebook.

Research Fortnight invited Professor Tilli Tansey to write an article marking the centenary of the Medical Research Council. The text is available here:

The Group was pleased to welcome journalist Mr Takayasu Ogura, European General Bureau Chief of the Japanese newspaper Mainichi, to discuss our project work, particularly in relation to the history of clinical genetics.

We are delighted to announce that the 50th volume in the Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine series will be available shortly.

This special edition will contain a foreword written by the UK Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Mark Walport, and will showcase highlights from over twenty years of the Witness Seminars.

We are pleased to announce the Dr Julie Hartley will be joining the History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group on Tuesday.

Julie comes to us from the FP7 Science In Society Project 'HealthGovMatters', with a particular interest in the governance of medical knowledge regarding treatment technologies for autism, epilepsy and migraine. We are confident that her skills will be an excellent fit with the Group's goals. We welcome her to the team, and are very excited about what she will bring to the project.

We are pleased to announce that Dr Tom Quick has joined our project group for four months.

Burroughs, Wellcome and Company was the pharmaceutical firm established in London in 1880 by two young American pharmacists, Silas Mainville Burroughs and Henry Wellcome. They brought not only new pharmaceutical preparations and production techniques, but also new methods of marketing and advertising to the UK.  Part of that strategy was the provision of free drug samples and gifts in the form of blotters, specially written medical guides and books, and annual medical diaries.

We are delighted to be presenting a poster highlighting selected aspects of our work at this year's William Harvey Day research showcase, on Tuesday 18th October. Our poster will be located in the Barts Pathology Museum, 3rd Floor, Robin Brook Centre, St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE. Members of the team will be on-hand throughout the day, so please do come along - we look forward to meeting you. 

Further information on William Harvey Day is available here.

We have made available a video recording of Prof Tilli Tansey's plenary lecture from the Sixth International Workshop on the History of Human Genetics, at the 2015 European Society for Human Genetics conference. For further details, and to watch the lecture in full, click here:

A paper by Julie Hartley and Tilli Tansey has just been published in Notes and Records of The Royal Society: ‘White coats and no trousers: narrating the experiences of women technicians in medical laboratories, 1930–90’
Readers might also be interested in Tilli’s recent article on ‘Women and the early Journal of Physiology’