I am Professor Emerita of Classical Studies, and I worked at the OU from 2011-2017, when I decided that I didn't want to spend any more time in meetings and admin! Since then, I became a Visiting Professor within Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick and, in 2017-18, I had an intellectually and pedagogically stimulating year as Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell Visiting Professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.
My first degree, at UCL, was in Ancient History and Social Anthropology; I then held research fellowships in Cambridge and Newcastle, taught in Liverpool for 8 years, and worked at Reading (originally on a Wellcome Trust University Award) from 1996-2011. In advance of my 'retirement' at the end of January 2017, I reflected on my career on The Women's Classical Council UK blog and I continue to write a blog about retiring as well as a blog on the history of the body. In addition to my full-time jobs across the HE sector, I have been a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (2001), a Lansdowne Visiting Lecturer at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (2002), a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin (2005), the Käthe Leichter Visiting Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Vienna (2014) and a Provost's Distinguished Women's Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (2016).
Doctoral theses I have supervised include work on the female body in Christian late antiquity, the historiography of ancient Athenian and pre-Hellenic women in the 19th and early 20th centuries, sixteenth- to seventeenth-century medical illustrations, the patient in the work of Rufus of Ephesus, infertility and blame in the ancient world, classical reception at Stourhead, and memory and forgetting in ancient Greek literature. I am currently supervising a PhD on magic in Roman Britain.
From my PhD (on ancient Greek menstruation) onwards, I have been interested in setting ancient medical thought within its social and cultural context, as one way - among others - of making sense of life. I've therefore looked at ancient ideas about creation, the role of women, and sacrifice to illuminate Hippocratic gynaecology (Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the female body in ancient Greece, Routledge, 1998).
From teaching the history of medicine while working at the University of Reading, I wrote a short introduction to the main issues, Greek and Roman Medicine (Bloomsbury Press, 2001). This is aimed at undergraduate students and general readers. A 2008 volume in French, La Médecine dans l'Antiquité grecque et romaine (Editions BHMS) starts from this book but adds extra material, especially on the visual evidence; this was co-written with Véronique Dasen (Fribourg).
A volume of essays on Health in Antiquity was published under my editorship in 2005 (Routledge) and in 2013 I published a chapter on the humours and Hippocratic medicine in the Horden and Hsu collection, The Body in Balance.
For ten years I also taught on, and examined, the History of Medicine Diploma run by the Society of Apothecaries, London. I wrote a free 6-week MOOC, Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World, for the FutureLearn platform, which entered its first presentation in February 2017 and had its sixth in June 2019. The course is now available all year round (but without the discussion feature!) on OpenLearn.
I have written on the use of classical models in nursing and midwifery, but I am particularly interested in the alleged (and imaginary) classical origins of 'hysteria', on which I've published Hysteria Beyond Freud (written with S. Gilman, R. Porter, G.S. Rousseau and E. Showalter, University of California Press, 1993), a section in History of Clinical Psychiatry (eds G. Berrios and R. Porter, Athlone Press, 1995), and 'Recovering hysteria from history: Herodotus and "the first case of shell shock"' in Peter Halligan et al. (eds), Contemporary Approaches to the Science of Hysteria: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2001). I continue to work on psychiatry; see for example my chapter on phobia (fear of heights, fear of flute girls) in William V. Harris (ed.), Mental Disorders in the Classical World (Brill, 2013).
Before moving to the Open University I held a post at Reading funded by the Wellcome Trust to work on a project on the reception of the sixteenth-century compilation, the Gynaeciorum libri; in particular, the impact of Hippocratic gynaecology in the period after its publication in Latin by Calvi in 1525, but also the subsequent history of the books themselves, their owners and their uses. Outputs from this funding include my monograph The Disease of Virgins: Green-Sickness, Chlorosis and the Problems of Puberty (Routledge, 2003), which moves from sixteenth-century ideas based on Hippocratic medicine, to the early twentieth century. I continue to work on the sixteenth century, and am interested in the history of dissection, especially around Leonardo da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius; for the recent anniversary of Vesalius' birth, I spoke at conferences in Leuven and Padua. Another monograph, Midwifery, Obstetrics and the Rise of Gynaecology (Ashgate, 2007), focuses on uses of classical medicine in the eighteenth century, a time when men and women were in competition for control over childbirth, and sheds new light on how the claim of female 'difference' was shaped by specific social and cultural conditions. It examines the use made of the 1597 Gynaeciorum libri by some of its early modern owners and users, and the remodelling of Hippocrates as the 'Father of Midwifery'.
In 2009, I co-organised with Manfred Horstmanshoff and Claus Zittel a conference at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, on the history of physiology: 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'. This was published in the series Intersections: Yearbook for Early Modern Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2012). In 2014 my co-written chapter (with Jo Brown) on the reception of Thucydides' account of the plague of Athens was published in the Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides. In November 2019 I published a monograph on contemporary uses of 'Hippocrates', Hippocrates Now (London: Bloomsbury) and my next project is a book on the history of the female body for Profile Books.
My 2013 monograph The One-Sex Body on Trial: Using the Classical and Early Modern Evidence (Ashgate) examines the reception of the story of the ‘first midwife’ Agnodice and of the Hippocratic case history of Phaethousa of Abdera, who grew a beard after her husband was exiled. By tracing the different versions of each story that existed between c.1550 and 1840, I show how the authority of the classics was invoked in professional disputes about medicine, debates about the role of women, and discussions of sexual identity. I was awarded an AHRC Fellowship to complete this monograph. An interview in which I discuss the Agnodice story and its reception with my colleague Dr Jessica Hughes appears in the ‘Classics Confidential’ series; watch this online.
I was Women's Studies Area Advisor to the Oxford Classical Dictionary (1996) and am a member of the international EuGeStA network. I have also published on ancient Greek and Roman sexology, for example 'Medicine and disease’, Sexuality in the Classical World (500 BC-350 AD), eds Peter Toohey and Mark Golden (Berg, 2010), 107-124 and ‘Galen and the widow. Towards a history of therapeutic masturbation in ancient gynaecology’, EuGeStA: Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity 1 (December 2011), 205-235; this article was awarded the Barbara McManus Prize by the Women’s Classical Caucus. I am currently working on a project on visual representations of the womb, from ancient votives to modern knitting.
In 1981 I co-edited, with my PhD supervisor S.C. Humphreys, Mortality and Immortality: the anthropology and archaeology of death (Academic Press). My interest in death has continued, and I've also worked on the role of the doctor at the deathbed in classical antiquity; a preliminary study, comparing classical and early modern deathbeds, has been published in Dutch.
I have taught at an unusually wide range of HE institutions, from Oxbridge to a former teacher-training institution, in both History and Classics departments. My main teaching work at the OU was chairing the foundation module of the online MA in Classical Studies (A863), for which I wrote most of Block 1 on 'How we know what we know' and contributed sections to the subject module on the ancient body. I also wrote a unit on greensickness and melancholy for the module on early modern history, A223, which went live in October 2016. Some reflections on teaching gender appear in the 2011 CUCD Bulletin. I also co-wrote (with Patty Baker and Laurence Totelin) a chapter on teaching challenging topics in ancient medicine in the 2014 volume From Abortion to Pederasty, edited by Fiona McHardy and Nancy Rabinowitz, and with the same collaborators wrote a MOOC on Health and Well-being in the Ancient World.
When I arrived at the OU, I was interested to find that my predecessor Professor Lorna Hardwick had attended the same secondary school; we wrote about our experiences of being taught about the ancient world in From Sutton High School to the Open University.
I have worked as a Visiting Professor at the Peninsula Medical School in Truro, where I taught a fourth-year SSU module on the history of dissection. I greatly enjoyed the interchange with 'real' medical students, helping them to develop a historical perspective to their practice. My topic was particularly relevant because human dissection did not form part of the curriculum there. I also work with the De Partu history of childbirth network.
I'm also very interested in the quality agenda. In addition to having been a member of the OU's Academic Quality and Governance Committee, I continue to work nationally as a reviewer for the Quality Assurance Agency (formerly with the Subject Review methodology, now with Review for Educational Oversight) and I've been asked to take part in a number of quinquennial inspections and validation reviews across the higher education sector. I have also carried out Periodic External Reviews for the Church of England.
I am also a member of the 'Historical' thematic working group currently contributing to the Church of England's proposed teaching document on human sexuality, 'Living in Love and Faith'. I've been an active member of this church for many years; I was a member of its governing body, the General Synod, from 1985-1993 and, as well as leading small groups working with the Emmaus and Pilgrim materials, I am an authorised lay preacher in Oxford Diocese as well as a Street Pastor.
I'm always interested in projects which bring together different disciplines, particularly those linking health professionals to historians. I'm currently a member of the steering group of the AHRC-funded network on 'Risk in childbirth', linking midwives, obstetricians and historians of different periods to explore how risk has been assessed and understood over time. In 2012 I co-organised a conference bringing together people from many subject backgrounds, including midwives, to discuss narrative and birthing. I have published on the history of pain, drawing on comparative studies of modern sufferers from chronic pain, which led to invitations to speak at a local hospice. For the impact of classical studies on improving the understanding of patients’ needs, see my short film on the healing power of Greek and Roman tales and my 2014 piece in The Lancet. I wrote a piece on Agnodice, the 'first midwife', for the February 2015 issue of The Practising Midwife and have since written several other 'Last Word' features for this journal.
I enjoy working with the wider public too, and co-led a Martin Randall Travel cruise with the theme 'Ancient Greek Philosophy and Medicine' as well as speaking at the company's weekend and day events. I have led five history of medicine tours of Bologna, Padua and Florence for the company and will be leading again in September 2020. In 2017 I was delighted to take part in Cheney School's Festival of Ancient Science and Modern Science, and to share my research on bearded ladies at the Crick Crack Club's 'Wild Ones' event at Wellcome Collection. In 2019 I'll be talking at another Cheney School event, a storytelling weekend in Dorset, and a medical conference, as well as travelling to Madison WI to mark the start of an interdisciplinary teaching programme there.
I began blogging as a Monthly Contributor on Wonders and Marvels in 2012 and have also written for Nursing Clio, The Recipes Project and The Votives Project as well as for my personal blogs. For the UK version of The Conversation, I have written on topics including the medical use of excrement, bearded ladies, the myths of Hippocrates, ancient beliefs surrounding menstruation, the links between modern 'vaginal steaming' and ancient treatments by fumigation, and 'Five things the ancient Greeks can teach us about medicine today'. This last piece led to a 5-minute YouTube piece on the same topic, 'What can we learn from ancient Greek medicine?' My 2016 piece on the disease of virgins, based on a monograph I wrote in 2004, has had over 600,000 hits and led to a short Youtube piece, 'How have we viewed female virginity?'
Podcast of 'In Our Time' episode on Galen, with Caroline Petit and Vivian Nutton, October 2013.
On ancient medicine, and ‘Gladiator’, April 2012:
(NB full content not available if accessed on an iPad).
On Agnodike the ‘flashing midwife’, March 2012.
Podcast of ‘In Our Time’ episode on The Hippocratic Oath with Peter Pormann and Vivian Nutton, September 2011.
Podcast of plenary lecture on women’s health in history, Anglo-American Conference of Historians 2011 (follow the link for Plenary 7).
Podcast of lecture on ancient gynaecology given at Reed College, Oregon, 2015.
Short podcast on my BA study, May 2016.
My history of medicine interests include my service from 1998-2003 as the co-editor of the journal Social History of Medicine (Oxford University Press), and membership of a variety of funding committees at the Wellcome Trust, including several years as Chair of the Research Resources in Medical History Committee and membership of the main History of Medicine Grants Panel and the Strategic and Enhancement Awards Committee. I have also served on the editorial board of Gesnerus. I was a judge for the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2012, 2015 and 2018 as well as for the Marie Curie Alumni Association Awards in 2014.