Carsten Timmermann, MSc, MA, PhD


  • Room 2.36, Simon Building, The University of Manchestr

    M13 9PL Manchester

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Personal profile


While studying for my first degree in Biochemistry at the Freie Universität Berlin, I took a succession of history courses in addition to my compulsory units in the sciences. Wondering how I could possibly combine my interests in science and history, I accidentally came across the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM), which was then rarely taught at German universities. After graduating, I was offered a job as a research technician at the Scripps Research Institute and spent two years in La Jolla, California, doing high resolution cryo electron microscopy. While there, I audited several course units in the Science Studies Programme at University of California, San Diego (I now realise that I probably gate crashed the programme). I then enrolled for an MA in History and Social Anthropology of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester (supported by a Wellcome Trust Studentship) and in 1999 completed a PhD, also at the University of Manchester, on Weimar Medical Culture: Doctors, Healers and the 'Crisis of Medicine' in Interwar Germany (again supported by a Wellcome Trust Studentship).

Since 1999, I have worked at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, initially as a research fellow and later a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Professor. In January 2022 I was appointed Director of the Centre.

I have been a frequent visitor, sometimes for longer periods, at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin and have collaborated closely with colleagues in continental Europe, the United States and Canada.

Since 2000 I have taught a variety of course units in history of medicine, history of the life sciences, and history of psychiatry and mental health. I have also taught course units dealing with the historiography of science, technology and medicine for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

I currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Leah De Quattro (with Drs Sarah Collins and Cinzia Greco, and Professor Vicky Singleton)
  • Iain Sturges (with Dr Robert Kirk)
  • Michaela Clark (with Dr Kostas Arvanitis)
  • Eleanor Shaw (with Dr Stephanie Snow)

Past PhD students:

  • Dr Nicola Sugden
  • Dr Linnea Kuglitsch
  • Dr Katherine Hiepko
  • Dr Andrew Black
  • Dr Ellen van Reuler

I am the Academic Lead for the University's Museum of Medicine and Health.

In 2015 Dr Elizabeth Toon and I founded the Medical Humanities Laboratory to create a virtual home for interdisciplinary activities around health and medicine.

Jointly with Professor Mick Worboys, I edit the Palgrave book series Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History.

I am a member of the Editorial Boards of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Notes & Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, and Social History of Medicine. In 2023 I will be joining the Editorial Board of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine and the Editorial Committee of Manchester University Press.

I am also a member of the Steering Committee of the John Rylands Research Institute and an elected member of the FBMH Faculty Committee.

I was Co-Director of the MSc in Medical Humanities until 2020 (with Dr Sarah Collins).

I was Chair of the Executive Committee of the Society for Social History of Medicine from 2015 to 2018, and Treasurer from 2004 to 2015.

Recent book [open access]: Moonshots at Cancer: The Roche Story

Also check out: A History of Lung Cancer: The Recalcitrant Disease
Reviewed in: British Journal for the History of Science, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Isis, Lancet Oncology, Social History of Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Research interests

I am a historian of science and medicine specialising on medicine, biology, and mental health in the 19th and 20th centuries. Following a PhD dissertation on the 'Crisis of Medicine' in Weimar Germany, I have published mostly  on the histories of lung cancer and other conditions that have been characterised as diseases of civilisation. I am interested in the interplay of epidemiology, laboratory research and clinical medicine, and in the history of the central paradigm of modern biomedicine: that investment in basic research sooner or later will bear fruit, in the shape of effective therapies. I teach modules in the history of biology and medicine (including psychiatry and mental health).

I am interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the history of science, technology and medicine that demonstrate the relevance of this fascinating subject for the present: how have science, technology and medicine shaped the world we live in?

History of Cancer

Since 2003 I have been involved (initially with John Pickstone, Emm Barnes, Elizabeth Toon and Helen Valier) in a collaborative reasearch project on the history of cancer research and cancer services in post-war Britain, funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Award. We explored the history of cancer as a disease that has come to epitomise modernity, comparing different cancers and their meanings. Books by members of the project have dealt with the histories of prostate cancer, childhood cancers, lung cancer, and patient experiences. Journal articles, have appeared, for example, in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Medical History, and Chronic Illness.

In collaboration with the the Historical Archive of the Hoffmann-La Roche AG I researched and wrote a monograph on the history of chemotherapy and more recent biological cancer treatments, commonly characterised as personalised medicine and based on monoclonal antibody technology. The book can be downloaded here for free, as an open-access pdf.

History of Mental Illness

I have been teaching our Centre's unit on 'Madness and Society in the Modern Age' in the past few years, and this has led to new collaborations in research. Jointly with Fritz Handerer, Peter Kinderman and Sara Tai I published an article on how the structure of mental hospital records has changed since the nineteenth century.

Before Translational Medicine

From 2011 to 2018 I worked  on a research project on the prehistory of what today is framed as translational research in medicine, funded by Wellcome Trust Programme Award, together with Rob Kirk, Stephanie Snow, Duncan Wilson, Michael Worboys and David Thompson.

History of Chronic Illness

My interest in the history of chronic illness builds on earlier work on the histories of cancer and cardiovascular disease. I contributed the chapter on chronic illness in the Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine edited by Mark Jackson (2011). In 2010 I organised a workshop here in Manchester on the history of chronic illness, as part of an ESF-funded network on drugs and standardisation in medicine.

History of Hypertension

I have also published on the history of cardiovascular research, especially high blood pressure, in post-war Britain and both German states, looking at novel drug therapies since the 1940s and the transformation of essential hypertension into what we now know as a 'risk factor'.



I coordinate the following undergraduate and postgraduate course units:

  • BIOL10381 - A History of Biology in 20 Objects
  • HSTM30832 · HSTM40332 · UCIL30332 · UCIL30832 - Madness and Society in the Modern Age [check out the reading list]
  • HSTM60692 - Madness and Society in the Modern Age (MSc)

I have supervised a range of PhD, MSc and undergraduate dissertations and research projects in the history of medicine and biology.

I was nominated for Manchester Teaching Awards in 2013 (Best Life Sciences Lecturer) and 2014 (Best Personal/Academic Advisor).

In 2020-21 I received a commendation in the 'Pandemic Teaching Awards'.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Areas of expertise

  • D204 Modern History
  • History of Medicine
  • History of Science
  • Cancer
  • Psychiatry
  • Chronic Disease
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Lung Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • DD Germany
  • History of Medicine
  • Biomedical Research
  • Crisis of Medicine
  • Weimar Republic
  • GDR
  • D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
  • History of Medicine
  • Cancer
  • Biomedical Research
  • Lung Cancer
  • Pharmaceutical Research
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Science and Society
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Social Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine


  • History of Medicine
  • History of Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • History of Science
  • Science and Technology Studies Studies
  • STS
  • STM


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