Friday, 28 May 2010

4000 signatures on the petition!

Please continue to pledge your support and spread the word...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Professor Christopher Blagg

As someone who has been around in my chosen field since its beginning 50 years ago and who took part in one of the most recent Wellcome Witness Seminars I believe closing of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine is a tragic mistake. I am currently working on a book on the history of my field and have been asked to talk about its history at professional meetings here in the United States and elsewhere and frequently am surprised by the lack of knowledge about its origins and growing pains among young physicians today.

The publications by the Centre and the facilities offered by its library are an outstanding resource that is recognized worldwide and should be saved.

Christopher R. Blagg MD FRCP
Professor Emeritus of Medicine
University of Washington
Executive Director Emeritus
Northwest Kidney Centers
Seattle, Washington, USA

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Mr Peter Hamlyn

The Centre is never more relevant than it is today. Its closure is inappropriate and will clearly cost lives, in number and quality, in Britain and abroad. I am a neurosurgeon, a subject with a very short history. However I see the role of alternative therapies positively and after 20 years of consultant practice see it as every bit as relevant as ever it was. Patients want it and it works. In another role I was one of the five medics who presented the London 2012 Olympic bid to the IOC in February 2005 before the successful vote in July. The key to its legacy is to deliver a nation and indeed a planet of spectators who will feel inspired to exercise. Inactivity is our biggest killer in the developed nations. The oriental cultures have exercise as a key element to health. Chinese parks are full of exercising elderly. As a result they live longer, more independently and with less disability than do we.

How do I know this? Because of the work uncovered and presented by the Wellcome Centre.

If in history we look back and see that the reason for closure was really as banal as a bid document not being lodged on time the conclusion will be that the process of administration got in front of the mission. And, if that comes to pass we can only hope that the individuals responsible are seen for what that makes them.

Medicine is not immune from the need to learn from and build on its history lest it too is condemned to repeat it. You cannot expect to learn from your history without studying it. No one does that like the Wellcome.

Peter Hamlyn MB BS, BSc, MD, FRCS, FISM
Consultant Neurosurgeon
Fellow of the Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine

Friday, 14 May 2010

Dr John Lee

I am indebted to the Centre of the History of Medicine. As a rather green, blinkered medical student who had a fairly narrow education, I applied for a place to do an intercalated bachelors degree at the Centre in the mid eighties. I have always looked back to the time as life changing. I learnt about the rigour of history, the art of enquiry and cultural exposition. In this year, I grew up, and understood so much better about mankind and society. I became more respectful of others and of the privileges I had as a doctor in training. How could anyone be contemplating losing the opportunities for future students?

Dr John Lee
Consultant in Pain Medicine

UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The future of medical history

The Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine is hosting a three-day international conference on the future of the history of medicine. Papers are invited on the disciplinary and methodological challenges facing the field in all aspects of research and resourcing, not excluding media technologies and publishing. More ...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

3000 signatures for our online petition

We are pleased to announce that the online petition to Save History of Medicine at UCL now has its 3000th signature. However, we would like many more in order to make an even greater impact. If you would like to show your support by signing the petition, please do so, and pass the details to concerned friends and colleagues...

Professor Pamela K Gilbert

The Wellcome Centre has been a leading institution in medical history that has not only shaped the field as it stands, but made it possible to see how central an understanding of medical history is to modernity and how important it is for medicine to be guided by a clear understanding of the historical stakes of medical research and professional development. The Wellcome has made much of my work possible, and it will be a personal loss to me and to my research if it closes; much more importantly, it will prevent other younger scholars from being able to do such work in the first place.

At this moment, the Humanities are burdened both by the general economic crisis and by a political climate in which their future is at stake. Now more than most times, we rely on the vision of institutions and administrators of endowments and trusts to help balance the vagaries of political pressure on state or national budgets, and to take a leadership position in the conversation about academic and cultural value. Now is the time for the Wellcome Trust to step up to this responsibility, not to turn away. I hope it will be possible to reconsider this decision.

Pamela K. Gilbert
Albert Brick Professor and Chair
Department of English
P.O. Box 117310
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Professor Michael R McVaugh

My intermittent association with history of medicine at "the Wellcome" began in 1972, when I spent a summer working at what was then the Wellcome Institute and made the acquaintance of Charles Talbot and Noel Poynter, and I'm still drawing on the research that I was enabled to do in those few months. I have spent much time since then returning to work in its later manifestations, its Academic Unit and its subsequent UCL avatar, discussing my work with Edwin Clarke and Roy Porter and Vivian Nutton, and it has continuously provided an outstandingly supportive, nourishing environment. It has been a research home away from home, one to which I have always gravitated naturally.

Plenty of other transAtlantic scholars, I'm sure, can claim an equally long and close association with the Wellcome, and I mention mine simply to make clear what a wonderful tradition of study and research and teaching this entity has maintained for more than a generation, and to suggest to you all (a little wryly now) why I was always so admiring of the Wellcome Trust for its willingness to put Sir Henry's wishes into rich effect; the behavior of the Trust, I used to think, showed that even an enormous financial institution could recognize the importance of intensely humane scholarship. But I was wrong.

Michael R McVaugh
William Smith Wells Professor of History (emeritus)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Monday, 10 May 2010

Professor Simone Kropf

The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL is a model for all those who work with the history of medicine and health. I would like to stress that one of the most important aspects of WTCHM’s activity has been the establishment of partnerships and relations with researchers in various continents, including Latin America. Those of us who study and teach the history of science repeatedly emphasize the importance of mutual cooperation, dialogue and exchange between countries, as a means of overcoming the traditional “center-periphery” view of research and its results.

The experience of researchers at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) with the WTCHM has shown us the very positive and real benefits of this dialogue, which is so advantageous in broadening the horizons of the history of medicine in the academic sense and also in its social and political dimension. Last year I had the privilege to take part in the Global Health Histories Seminars (Tropical diseases: lessons from History), organized by WTCHM and WHO in Geneva, where I had the opportunity to discuss the history of tropical medicine in Brazil in a direct dialogue with policymakers who work with the important current issue of neglected tropical diseases. It reassured me how one can and should associate research in the academic field of history and reflection on issues on the contemporary health and medicine agenda.

We all have much to obtain from this dialogue, both in academic understanding and in the political struggle of issues that express the many interfaces between medicine and society, such as the relation between diseases and poverty. For this and many other reasons, the activities of the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine have been decisive and definitely cannot be discontinued. We, Latin American historians, who in the last decades have been struggling, with so much effort, to conquer partnership and exchange spaces such as this one, cannot accept the sudden and unjustified closure of WCHM.

Simone Kropf
Postgraduate Program in History of Sciences and Health
Casa de Oswaldo Cruz/Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Friday, 7 May 2010

Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor, British Medical Journal

It's easy to dismiss history. As someone once said, 'there's no future in it.' But the Wellcome Trust's announcement that it will close its centre for history of medicine at UCL has hit a nerve, which may have surprised those who made the decision ... more ...

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Professor Lucia Dacome

I would like to join the voices of protest for the planned closure of The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. As the other comments have already highlighted, the Centre has consistently been a place of excellence in research and teaching, and a fundamental point of reference for all those interested in the history of medicine across the globe. The decision to close such a lively and eminent institution is incomprehensible. I myself immensely benefited from having a postdoc there. The same has happened to many other junior scholars: doing research in a distinguished and intellectually stimulating research institution like the Wellcome Trust Centre has been of great help to many at the beginning of their careers. There may still be Wellcome grants offered to junior researchers, but having the opportunity to work in an institution that is leading in the field and gathers so many prominent scholars and visitors from all over the world, has proven an invaluable intellectual experience. This may be another area of unintended consequences (as Virginia Smith mentions in an earlier comment) related to Centre?s planned closure. I would like to appeal to the members of the Wellcome Trust to reconsider an unfortunate decision that will inflict severe damage to the field and beyond.

Lucia Dacome
University of Toronto

Professor Michael Hagner

Nun habe auch ich erfahren, dass das Wellcome Center in Londonzugesperrt werden soll. Das kann ich nicht schweigend hinnehmen, unddeswegen habe ich meine ETH-Kolumne genutzt, um das gebührend zukommentieren. Helfen wird es nichts, aber vielleicht ist es ein Akt derHygiene im antiken Sinne.

Gehts Dir gut?

Chair for Science Studies
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Dr Cristina Álvarez Millán

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of dismay at the unjustified closure of a unique institution for the study of history of medicine. Furthermore, I would add that the Wellcome Trust Centre is a beacon that shines throughout the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the three years I spent at the Wellcome Institute (later the Wellcome Trust Centre) opened my mind to new possibilities and gave me an academic grounding that I could not have received elsewhere. It would be a tragedy if other young scholars were not able to benefit as I did. I very much hope that the Wellcome Trust and UCL will reconsider a decision which, as a colleague put it, “will drive so many scholars to the abyss”. Please add my name to those who officially protest against this act of folly.

Cristina Álvarez Millán
Dept. Historia Medieval, CC. y TT. Historiográficas
Facultad de Geografia e Historia, UNED

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dr Miguel López-Pérez

Please, add my deepest sorrow to you all for the very bad new I have just known from Sharon Messenger. I have Hal Cook as a friend from many years ago, and I know how he worked there. I have in my memory some of the most pleasant moments of my academic career, talking with Dr. Bruce Moran, Dr. Antonio Barrera, Bill Eamon, John Slater... All time learning History of Science, all time getting new friends.

As for the Library, I remember all Staff helping me. Just very good people everywhere, and sorrounding me.

Miguel López-Pérez
Spanish Society for the History of Alchemy

Dr P Arouna Ouedraogo

I am writing to add my voice to those of scholars from around the world who are saddened and dismayed to learn of the planned closure of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL.

As a visiting scholar at the Centre on many occasions, I have benefited greatly from interacting with the Centre's faculty, staff, and graduate students. The people and resources at the Centre have proved critical to my intellectual development and informed my ongoing research in innumerable positive ways.

Work done by the Wellcome Centre scholars helped to a large extent settle medical history as an autonomous and important scientific discipline, which role is crucial more than ever, given the rapid transformations in medical science and medical care. This is now a common patrimony that the intellectual community should not let die. I do urge scholars not to resign themselves to this fact, and to keep shouting as loudly as possible to get the managers reconsider their decision.

P. Arouna Ouedraogo
Senior Researcher

Professor Karine Chemla

I am shocked to learn that the Wellcome trust centre for the history of medicine at UCL will close its doors within the next two years. The news comes as a blow for the profession worldwide, since the centre was internationally renowned for its leading role in the field and attracted young and senior scholars from the entire world. The centre played a major role in helping history of medicine to develop worldwide, taking a noticeable part in the influence that UK exerts throughout the world. Its scientific policy in the last decades to open history of medicine towards a global perspective was a major step, which gave hope to all of those who, like me, think that history of science is generally too slow in taking this step. The decision is a blow to the humanities in UK and beyond.

Professor Karine Chemla
Directrice de recherche CNRS
Research group REHSEIS-SPHERE, CNRS & University Paris Diderot
Former director of REHSEIS and of the nation-wide program "History of

Professor Adrian Johns

Like the others whose comments are posted here, I find the decision to close the UCL Centre both baffling and dismaying. Historical understandings of medicine have never been more necessary than they are today, when the medical and life-sciences industries are generating so many contentious issues across the world. More to the point, we stand in need of the specific kind of approach that the UCL Centre in particular has been known for since Roy Porter's days, in which medical history is treated as an integral part of social and cultural history.

It took time to build the reputation that that approach now enjoys, such that scholars across historical fields hold medical history in high repute and see it as a necessary part of their broad enterprise. It is largely as a result of this success that the history of medicine seems to be one of the few humanities fields to be holding its own here in America during the current employment crisis. But to sustain an endeavor like this requires long-term institutional commitment: funding agencies have found repeatedly that it cannot be achieved by a series of one-off, isolated projects. So it is extraordinary that the Wellcome is apparently determined - at best - to make that same mistake all over again, opting for ad hoc ventures rather than a coherent and developing program. It seems a thoroughly retrogressive and wrong-headed decision. And it is not just the history of medicine that will be the poorer for it.

Adrian Johns
Professor, Department of History
Chair, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science
University of Chicago
1126 East 59th Street
IL 60637

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Please sign the petition

Dear All,

Please make your support count by signing our online petition:

We would urge you to forward this link to friends and colleagues.

Thank you.