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Personal profile

Biography

After completing a BA (Hons) in History at the University of Western Ontario and an MA in History at the University of Toronto, I earned a DPhil in Modern History from the University of Oxford. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, I engaged in two further years of postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford before assuming a Wellcome Lectureship in the History of Medicine and Life Sciences at the University of Kent at Canterbury. I subsequently took up an appointment at the School of History at the University of St Andrews, where I became director of the Institute for Environmental History.

Research overview

My research has principally focused on nineteenth- and twentieth-century British history, with some work on Canada. Although my research covers a wide spectrum of cultural history, I have been principally interested in the entanglements of culture and nature in modern Britain. To this end, I co-organised an exhibition on the history of women and natural history, with the resultant publication, Women and Natural History (Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1996). Pursuing a more in-depth investigation of one facet of the cultural history of natural history in nineteenth-century Britain, I wrote Bugs and the Victorians (Yale University Press, 2009), which was shortlisted for History of Science Society’s Pfizer Prize for Outstanding Book and for its Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize (for promoting public understanding of science). This book was subsequently translated to Japanese (Toyo Shorin, 2011). As one of the principals of a major AHRB/C Research Centres Award, I undertook research into the history of waste. This led to publications on early incinerators, and on a toxic waste spill; and an edited volume, Aesthetic Fatigue: Modernity and the Language of Waste (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013). This waste research was shared with a wider audience when I acted as consultant and presenter for a television documentary on the history of waste in London, UK – Trashopolis (Pixcom Productions, Montreal and Paris), which aired in Canada on the History Channel and on the Smithsonian Channel, (USA) and Discovery Channel (Europe). For the latter half of 2014, I held a Senior Fellowship at the Centre for Historical Research, The Ohio State University, and was tasked with contributing environmental perspectives on a collaborative project on state formation and transformation. Grounded in a longstanding interest in historiography, this research complemented publications on Canadian environmental history (published in the Canadian Historical Review), and on ‘Intellectual History and the History of Science’ (2018). Across the spectrum, my research has been published in dozens of articles, which have appeared in edited volumes and in journals, such as British Journal for the History of Science, Agricultural History, Urban History, Isis, Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Archives of Natural History, Notes and Records of the Royal Society, Parassitologia, Endeavour, History Today, and The Conversation. I have been editor of the Monograph Series, British Society for the History of Science, editor of Environment and History, and a member of council for the History of Natural History. Building on past research strands, I am currently working on the following: a monograph on science, truth, and life-writing in the early twentieth century; a four-volume collection of nineteenth-century entomological publications; and a contribution to a major collaborative cultural history of nature in the twentieth century.

Teaching activity

Throughout my time at St Andrews, my teaching has focused on environmental history, nineteenth- and twentieth-century social and cultural history, and historiography. In addition, I have been involved in cross-disciplinary teaching. I was among the first staff to teach on the emergent Sustainable Development programme at the University of St Andrews. I continue to provide teaching for the Masters programme in Sustainable Development. Similarly, I have taught for Masters programmes in Environmental History; International Development Practices; Conservation Studies; Modern History; Transnational and Spatial History; and Intellectual History. My teaching includes the following:
Subhonours
MO1008 Themes in Late Modern History (c. 1776-2001)
HI2001 History as a Discipline: Developments and Key Concepts
MO2008 Scotland, Britain, and Empire (c. 1500-2000)
Honours
[MO3316] Filth and the Disease of Poverty in Nineteenth-Century Britain
[MO3112] Canada – from Age of Exploration to Age of Energy
MO3338 Disease and the Environment, c.1500-2000
MO3314 History of Environmentalism, 1800-2000
MO4937 Charles Darwin and the Politics of Progress, 1789-1925 [Special Subject]
HI4996 Presenting the Past [History of Documentary Film]
Evening Degree
[MO3909] Disease, Medicine, and the Making of the Modern World, c.1500 to Present
MLitt Degree
EH5003 Environmental History: Nature and the Western World (1800-2000)
EH5004 Environmental Disasters: Crisis, Catastrophe, and Risk in the Modern World (1755 to Present)
MO5023 Disease and the Environment, c.1500-2000
MO5602 Directed Reading in Modern History
MO5613 History of Modern Science
IH5003 The Theory and Practice of Intellectual History

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 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

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