Friday, 30 April 2010

Professor Anthony Cerulli

I would like to add my name and support to the chorus of people who are lamenting the announced closure of the Wellcome Centre. As a visiting scholar at the Centre on two occasions, I have benefited greatly from the collegiality and expertise of the Centre's faculty, staff, and graduate students. The people and resources at the Centre have informed my research in innumerable positive ways, and I am deeply saddened by the prospect that this unexcelled institution for the History of Medicine is not being supported beyond 2012. This decision is awful and rather shortsighted. The loss of the Centre will greatly inhibit the discipline of the History of Medicine. I strongly encourage the Trust to reconsider their decision to close the Centre.

Anthony Cerulli
Assistant Professor
Department of Religious Studies
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Professor John Carson

Like other scholars around the world, I was saddened and dismayed to learn of the planned closure of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. I spent two years at the Centre (when it was the Wellcome Institute) as a postdoc, and they proved critical to my intellectual development. Not only did I have the time and funds to explore my own research project, but I basically learned the history of medicine from scholars such as Roy Porter, Bill Bynum, Stephen Jacyna, Chris Lawrence, and many others. The Centre continues to be one of the leading institutions for the history of medicine and it is a terrible day for us all when such a place is closed.

I do urge the Wellcome Trust and UCL to reconsider their decision, and to continue to support
not just excellent research but excellent institutions that help train the next generation of historians of medicine.

John Carson
Associate Professor
Department of History
Director, Science, Technology & Society Program
University of Michigan

Professor Dena Goodman

I am writing to add my voice to those of scholars from around the globe who are stunned at the prospect of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine being shut down. Thanks in large part to the scholarship produced by Wellcome Centre scholars, the history of medicine is now integral to our understanding of cultural, intellectual, social, and political history. It is centres such as this one that have made the UK a beacon for historians everywhere. It is unbelievable that anyone would want to give up the leadership role that the Wellcome Centre has attained.

Dena Goodman
Lila Miller Collegiate Professor of History and Women's Studies
University of Michigan

Co-Director, Encyclopedia of Diderot and D'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education (United States) has picked up the story. If you want to make comments there too, it would spread the word.

Thanks to all supporters.

Professor David M Halperin

I am writing to express my horror at the news of the proposed closing of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine and to express my support for your struggle to keep it open. No one who cares about research in history or the human sciences can possibly regard this prospect with indifference.

David M. Halperin
W. H. Auden Collegiate Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality
Professor of English Language and Literature
Professor of Women’s Studies
Professor of Comparative Literature
Adjunct Professor of Classical Studies
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Professor Salvatore Nicosia

The announced closure of the Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine is an act of stupid ignorance

Professor Salvatore Nicosia
Department of Greek and Latin Language and Literature
University of Palermo, Italy

Dr Florike Egmond

These plans for closure are madness. I read about them with horror and disbelief. And several comments by others on the Centre's intended closure made it even clearer to me than before how many people from very different branches and disciplines are (and have been) profiting from the Centre, its expertise and staff, and the meetings and conferences there. And I am not even mentioning the great library, which as anyone knowns who has ever dealt with collections, cannot thrive without an expert staff. And these are just a few of the aspects of the Centre which I have personally experienced.

The centre's closure will deprive the UK of the very best centre for the study of the history of medicine worldwide, and destroy a unique meeting point for expertise that has been built up over a very long period. I very much hope that those who command the resources will come to their senses.

Dr Florike Egmond
Clusius Project
Scaliger Institute
University of Leiden, The Netherlands

Professor Martin S Pernick

The field of medical history is vital both to understand the processes of change that shape health and health care, and to study the role of health care and disease in shaping human history. These issues are especially vital in times of economic hardship. The University College London must rebuild its strong program in medical history, even if the Wellcome Trust does not reverse it's shortsighted and tragic funding decision.

Martin S. Pernick
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, and
Associate Director, Program in Society & Medicine
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI USA 48109-1003

Professor Stefania Fortuna

I learnt that the Wellcome Center for the History of Medicine at UCL is to be closed. It is a terrible news, difficult to understand and accept. I imagine that the Wellcome Trust and UCL think they have good reasons, especially the Wellcome Trust, which was always very generous and far-sighted with the History of Medicine. But I hope that this decision can be changed, if the importance of the Center is duly considered. Without it all the scholars from all over the world in the History of Medicine are left without a common home for meetings, discussions, etc. I was a guest of the Center in 1991/92 and since then I felt always as part of a very large family. Please don't destroy what so many valuable scholars built with their hard work.

Stefania Fortuna
Associate Professor of the History of Medicine
Università Politecnica delle Marche

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Dr Geert Somsen

I was horrified to hear about the intended closure of the Wellcome Centre. This is the most important centre for the history of medicine in the world! There has to be another way.

Geert Somsen
Maastricht University, the Netherlands

Dr Carl Heneghan - Why we need the History of Medicine

A very supportive statement from Dr Carl Heneghan, Deputy Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, GP and clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford.

Thank you Carl.

Dr William Aldis

With many other health care workers around the world, I was dismayed to learn of closure of the Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. The Centre is unique for the originality, independence, and wide range of its investigations into historical topics in medicine and public health. Their findings have immediate relevance, sometimes in unexpected ways, for problems we are facing today. An example is the Centre's work on the history of smallpox eradication and its application to today's polio eradication effort. The Centre's detailed and rigorous historical study of smallpox eradication is immediately applicable for polio eradication, and may save polio eradication from the failure which some critics are predicting.

As an admitted Anglophile, I am also sad to see the UK walk away from a field in which they had obvious and universally accepted global leadership. Surely a wide, inclusive and thoughtful public enquiry is needed before irreversible steps are taken.

W. Aldis MD FACP
Asst. Prof. (Global Health) Faculty of Public Health
Thammasat University Pathumthani, 12121 Thailand

Unber Sheikh

The closure of any academic institution is a poor reflection of our society. This is very upsetting news for anyone involved in the dissemination of knowledge, whether it be in History of Medicine or otherwise. I offer my full support for any petitions you may organize.

Unber Sheikh (an MA student in Publishing)

Professor Ken Albala

This proposed closure is absurd. The Wellcome Trust Centre is the finest institution in the world for the study of the History of Medicine and has benefited countless scholars and the advancement of knowledge. Please add my name to the list of those who officially protest this planned closure. I especially deplore the fact that no rationale has been offered. It certainly can’t be financially driven given Wellcome Trust resources. To suggest any possible lack of merit in the centre’s programs would be patently false.

Ken Albala, Professor of History
University of the Pacific
Stockton, CA 95211 USA

Monday, 26 April 2010

Professor Elizabeth Williams

I would like to add my voice to those of scholars around the world who protest the closing of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. This is one of the great centers of learning in the world, and it is dedicated to a field of inquiry essential to historical understanding of medical science, the advancement of medicine, and the well-being of patients. In company with countless others, I have gained immense benefit from use of the Centre library, the venue the Centre provided for valuable seminars and scholarly meetings, communications from the Centre on developments within medical humanities, and support from the knowledgeable and dedicated Centre staff. It is inexplicable to me that this outstanding institution of higher learning would be summarily closed with no opportunity for public discussion. I strongly urge reconsideration of this lamentable decision.

Elizabeth A. Williams
Professor, Department of History
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078-3054

Wellcome Trust's statement

The Wellcome Trust has now posted notice of the closure of the Centre on its website.

Dr Núria Pérez-Pérez

I was very surprised indeed to know the closure of the center. For me and for my Spanish colleagues this center is a reference center for the study and management of the history of medicine and allied sciences. My best wishes for the future!

Núria Pérez-Pérez

Dr Virginia Smith

Over fifty years of institutional development gone in one short spat with Wellcome administrators who probably themselves will have moved on in a few years time. Yes there were obviously some problems, but it was their job to produce a solution. The closure of their main London Centre will affect the Wellcome's image and status in ways that they obviously have not forseen, with many unintended consequences. Some of them have already been posted on these blogs, ie. their international academic reputation, positive commendation from the WHO, their
relationship with their London neighbours, the viability of their Library and Museum, etc etc. This short-term thinking is not serving the Wellcome Trust well. There should be some internal enquiry as to how things got to such a state, and an immediate restart to negotiations with UCL.

But what is potentially even more worrying is the thought that the Wellcome may be using this as an excuse to try to get out of the history of medicine altogether. Is this the case? What is going on here? The more fuss we make the better. Now can we have a world-wide petition?

Dr Virginia Smith,
Centre for Public Health History, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

New tools to keep in touch

We are heartened by all the expressions of support posted here. A petition is in the process of being prepared, and we sincerely hope that you will all add your names to this. In the meantime we have added some widgets to enable you to keep up-to-date with all the latest posts. Please use the drop-down menus for "Posts" or "All Comments" (towards the top of this page) to automatically receive notifications in your favourite News Reader application.

Dr Cristiana Bastos

Thank you for letting us express some words of concern and protest about the imminent closure of the Centre, something we around the world can only deeply regret. Anyone who works on historical, social, cultural, political aspects of medicine and the biosciences in any part of the world had and has the WTCHOM in the highest esteem and consideration; most of us have benefited from its existence either indirectly, by reading and learning from the impressive scholarship promoted there, or directly, by participating one time or another in the activities of the centre.

I was lucky enough to have been a beneficiary of all of them: in teaching and research, I regularly use books and articles produced by scholars supported by the Centre through the years; I participated in several conferences promoted by the Centre, where I could meet cross-disciplinary interlocutors that I would unlikely meet in any other way, and developed productive research partnerships as a result; finally, in 2009, the Centre kindly received me as a visiting scholar for a brief period – one that was long enough to allow me to develop new research lines that would probably never come to life otherwise. I believe that many around the world share similar experiences. It is therefore our duty to express these views – both of a tremendous thanks for the existence of the Centre until now, and a deep concern regarding its future.

Let me once again make my modest point: the very existence and the dynamics of the Centre, on top of the accountable benefits and production that can directly be evaluated, is at the root of much of the new scholarship and knowledge production that exists in the world, something that seems to me as a good way to fulfil the mission of the Wellcome Trust and the legacy of Sir Henry. To lose something that took so many years to create would be a terrible thing. Please count on my support for any initiative you may take.

Cristiana Bastos
Permanent Researcher, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa
Director, Imprensa de Ciências Sociais

Professor Janet McCalman

This is dreadful news - for the scholarly community at the Unit and for medical history around the world.

Please accept our full moral support from the University of Melbourne.

Janet McCalman
James Bradley

Professor Anne Marie Moulin

I am very upset by the news I have received. For me and, I think, not only for the historians of medicine but for the academic community working on health, science and politics, and for a broad audience beyond it, the Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine stood as the elective place for free, socially inspired and creative thinking.

I was a member of the board for four years in the 1990s, and participated to various meetings in London and other places, sponsored by the Wellcome. I found a quality of research and collective work unpaired anywhere in the world, due to the convergence of many positive factors, including of course the generosity of the Wellcome but also the dedication of the members of the teams. This organisation figured for me as a model, and I remember having urged potential sponsors in other countries, starting with France, to emulate the model.

The role of medical history remains more crucial than ever, facing the swift changes in medical science and medical care, in our European countries and in the world (it is an original feature of the Wellcome, faithful to sir Henry's heritage, to promote research with countries in Africa and Asia). The so-called lessons of history are not a luxury, but a vital and ethical necessity. The library, without core research teams attached to it, in order to impulse a dynamic, will lose part of its grandeur and scientific and social usefulness.

I join my colleagues and friends in any loud protest in favour of the revival of the Wellcome enterprise for the history of medicine.

Anne Marie Moulin, MD, Ph.D
directeur de recherche, CNRS, SPHRE/University of Paris VII
ex member of the Scientific Board of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (1995-1998)

Dr Najeeb Al-Shorbaji, World Health Organization

I have become aware of the new developments regarding the link between Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine and the University College of London. WHO has been partnering with the Centre in the implementation of the Global Health History Seminars. These seminars have been very successful in terms of sharing knowledge and experience about public health issues that many of the new generations of healthcare professionals are not aware of. We see these seminars as a vehicle to bring experience of the experienced professionals to the practitioners and researchers providing them with opportunity to learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes in dealing with diseases. The seminars have been recently broadcast over the internet which has brought a totally new dimension to the picture. Instead of sharing this experience with few hundreds attending physically the seminar, we now share it with thousands over the internet and in an online mode. I am sharing with you a testimony (we have many many of these) from Africa that came to us during the malaria seminar.

Najeeb Al-Shorbaji
Director of the Department of Knowledge Management and Sharing
WHO, Geneva

Dr Atsuko Naono

I am writing to support the continuation of the Centre. After finishing my Ph.D., the Centre welcomed me as a guest researcher for a year during 2006-7. I benefitted from interesting seminars and conferences, and learned a great deal from the Centre's academic staff. I am still benefitting from some of the Centre's dissemination activities such as the WHO Global Health Histories Seminars, many of which I listen to online.

I am also very grateful for the Centre's support in publishing my first monograph in 2009. It was a great shock for me to hear that the Centre is closing. I heard many times that funding is shrinking everywhere. However, closing the Centre will cause regrettable effects to the development of the field of the history of medicine.

I agree with many who urge the UCL and the Wellcome Trust to continue supporting the Centre.
Atsuko Naono
Associate Fellow
Centre for the History of Medicine
University of Warwick

Professor Paul Farber

Please add my name to the list of what must be a growing chorus of those who were startled and deeply saddened to learn of the projected closure of the Wellcome Trust History of Medicine Centre in London. In past decades, it has been the home of some of the most distinguished historians of medicine and the life sciences, and its termination will be a significant loss to the discipline. While I don't know the specific reasons for the projected closure, I hope the Trustees would reconsider in light of the damage such an action will have.
Paul Farber, President, History of Science Society and
Editor, Journal of the History of Biology

Paul Lawrence Farber
OSU Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Department of History
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331

Thursday, 22 April 2010

On March 31st the Wellcome Trust and UCL announced the closure of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine

The proposal to close the Centre came in the middle of negotiations between UCL and the Wellcome Trust concerning the normal quinquennial review of funding for the Centre and was made by a handful of persons within the Trust without, as far as is known, the involvement of any historian of medicine. As far as can be ascertained at present, the Centre, and its associated activities, will be run down over a period of two years, ending on 30 September 2012. Undergraduate and graduate teaching is likely to continue until that date, as will Medical History, but in the absence of any further information from the Trust or from UCL nothing more can be said at this moment about the future. More definite information will be made on this website as soon as it becomes available. To avoid confusion, it should be made clear that this closure notice does not relate to the Wellcome Library, Wellcome Collection, or the funding activity of the Trust in History of Medicine.

The timing of the official announcement, literally minutes before the end of UCL term, coupled with the holidays and the travel disruption that has left many of the staff stranded across the world, has delayed any public announcement or response from the Centre. In addition, a current disciplinary case within UCL has prevented for legal reasons disclosure of some of the facts behind this decision. A petition to both the Trust and UCL to rescind their decision is being organised and will appear shortly on this site.

The Centre has been the leading research centre in the history of medicine, playing host to scholars from around the world. It secured the highest ratings in the latest RAE, and has an excellent record in both undergraduate and graduate teaching. Uniquely among medical history institutions, it has recently been nominated for Collaborating Centre Status by the World Health Organization. To withdraw all funding suddenly from such a Centre has implications for the subject as a whole, and potentially for the future of the renowned Wellcome Library, a significant proportion of whose readers are directly associated with the Centre.


Friday, 16 April 2010


A big "thank you" to everyone who has so far expressed support for the plight of the Centre, and understandable concern for the impact that the decision to close it down without peer review will have worldwide.

Please note: in the interests of fairness we have decided not to publish "anonymous" posts.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Greetings One and All!

This blog is for friends of the Wellcome Trust Centre of the History of Medicine at UCL. Anyone may post a message here, but please note that this site will be moderated.

Happy posting!