Dr Viviane Quirke

M. es-L. (Paris), DPhil (Oxon)

Senior Lecturer in Modern History and History of Medicine

School of Education, Humanities and Languages

Viviane Quirke


Viviane Quirke was educated at the University of Paris X and at Oxford University, where she completed her D.Phil. in Modern History in 2000. Her work has been supported by the Wellcome Trust, the European Science Foundation, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the British Council in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others. She has been researching and teaching at Oxford Brookes University since 2001. 

Viviane is a historian of science, technology and medicine, with a special focus on the history of biomedicine, drug therapies and the pharmaceutical industry in Britain, France and the USA in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her teaching taps into, and expands on, her research.

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

The world we live in has been shaped by advances in science, technology and medicine, a fact thrown into even sharper relief by the Covid pandemic. Dr Quirke's specialist teaching focuses on the history of medical knowledge, practice, and associated technologies, while her broader teaching considers the local as well as the wider social and cultural context within which they developed.


  • Oxford in History: Explores the vibrant story of Oxford and its region, and how the town and its university have shaped national life.
  • History Work-Based Learning: Enables students to apply and develop their historical skills on a work placement, and to learn and write about their skills and knowledge reflectively.
  • Genders, Sexualities and Bodies: Explores the history behind current debates about genders, sexualities, and bodies.
  • War and Medicine (part of Advanced Studies in Social and Cultural History): How does war impact medicine? Can medicine influence whether wars are won or lost?


  • The Hospital in History: Explores the multiple transformations of the hospital as an institution and a site of medical treatment and care, from the monastic hospital of the middle ages to the modern hospice movement.


Dr Quirke has supervised a number of projects at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate (MA) levels, on various aspects of the history of modern medicine, as well as on the history of the First and Second World Wars.

At PhD level, to date Dr Quirke has supervised to completion five projects. Two were as Director of Studies. Both were externally funded, the first by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant (no 09568/Z/11/A) on which Dr Quirke has been co-investigator (Gilmour-Hamilton, 'A Cohort of One: Oral History and Cancer Research in Britain, 1970-2010', 2016); the second by an AHRC CDA with the Science Museum (Catherine Rushmore, 'Uses and Misuses of Chemicals in the British Home, c. 1930s-1980s', 2017). 

Three were as Second Supervisor:

  • Jenny Wright, 'Public Health Women Doctors in England, 1974 to 1991: a case study' (2015).
  • Jane Freebody, 'What were they doing all day?” Patient work, psychiatry and society, in France and England, 1918-1939’ (2019).
  • Ross Brooks, '"Weird Sex Science" in Britain, c.1900-1939: Narratives of Naturalisation and Eradication' (2021).

Dr Quirke is Director of Studies for an ongoing project on the origins and evolution of the Generalised Anxiety Disorder diagnosis in the UK, c. 1950s-1980s.

PhD examination

Dr Quirke has acted as internal and external examiner on a number of occasions, in Britain and abroad. Topics examined have included the history of smallpox in 18th-century England; the Association of Parents of Backward Children and the legacy of eugenics in Britain, 1946-1960; the history of antimetabolites and their contribution to a rational approach to chemotherapy, 1935-1955; ‘Crystallographer and Campaigner: the life and work of Dame Kathleen Lonsdale FRS (1903-1971)’ ; the development, production, and use of the vaccine against meningitis A (1963-1975); 'From Prevention to Protection: Policy, Practice, and Pitfalls of Surgical Sterilization in California, 1909-Present’.

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
Ross Brooks Queer Science in Britain, c.1900-1939: Narratives of Naturalisation and Eradication Active


History of science, technology and medicine in Britain, France and the USA in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a special focus on the history of biomedicine, drug therapies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr Quirke's doctoral thesis compared the development of collaborative research networks between scientists and pharmaceutical companies in Britain and France in the twentieth century. It was published with Routledge in 2008 as Collaboration in the Pharmaceutical Industry: changing relationships in Fritain and France, 1935-1965. Her current research areas are:

  • The history of pharmaceutical R&D, focusing on the history of drug treatments for chronic diseases and the impact of drug safety regulation.
  • The history of cancer chemotherapy, from the perspective of the the patients who have experinced it as well as the scientists and clinicians responsible for its development.
  • The material culture of biomedicine, from bench, to bedside, and public engagement.
  • Magic bullets, wonder drugs and miracle cures: medicine between science and magic'

Dr Quirke was a co-applicant on a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award on 'Healthcare in Public and Private' (2007-2012), and was co-investigator on a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant on 'Subjects' Narratives of Medical Research in Europe' (09568/Z/11/A). 

Research grants and awards

  • 2020: Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History release from teaching award for project on ‘Wonder drugs, Magic Bullets and Miracle Cures: medicines between science, magic and religion’
  • 2018: Oxford Brookes Research Events Fund award for a workshop on the changing role of consultants in industry, c. 1850-2000.
  • 2016: Research Grant from the Scientific Instrument Society for a project entitled: ‘From Pharmaceutical Innovation to Public Engagement: Steve Carter and the Micrarium in Buxton’.
  • 2013-14: Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) Doan Fellowship for a project on ‘Chemistry and the History of Cancer Chemotherapy in the US, 1940s-1990s’ (taken up in May 2014).
  • 2012-15: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Dr Peter Morris of the Science Museum for a project on ‘Chemicals and their users in the British home, 1930s-1980s’.
  • 2012-17: Co-investigator for the Centre for Health, Medicine and Society’s Wellcome Trust Programme Grant (ref. 096580/Z/11/A) on ‘Subjects’ narratives of medical research in Europe, c. 1940-2001’, responsible for project entitled ‘Experiencing Cancer: therapeutic innovation and patient narratives’.
  • 2011-2012: European Science Foundation (ESF) Exchange Programme Grant for project on the history of cancer chemotherapy in France.
  • 2009-2011: Co-investigator on a British Council/Alliance Research Partnership Programme Grant with Jonathan Simon, University of Lyon I, for a study of the development and impact of diphtheria anti-toxin in Britain and France. 
  • 2008-2009: Welcome Trust Research Expenses Grant on ‘The History of Cancer Chemotherapy in Industrial Context: Imperial Chemical Industries and Rhône-Poulenc (ref. 086843/Z/08/Z: £3000).



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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Member of the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology (OCHSMT) since 2019.
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) since 2018.
  • Deputy Editor of Ambix and member of the Council of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC) since 2017.
  • Between 2017 and 2020, Viviane Quirke was a member of the English Heritage Blue Plaque Panel for London: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/
  • Member of the Peer Review Committee of the journal Cahiers Francois Viète: Épistémologie, Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques since 2015.
  • Member of the Steering Committee for the History of Science at the Maison Française in Oxford since 1995.


Public lectures

  • 'Franco-British relations, war, and the pharmaceutical industry: Rhone-Poulenc in international and historical perspective' (Lycee du Parc, Lyon, 21 October 2009).
  • 'Pharmaceuticals and 20th-century chemistry' ('Chemistry and the Growth of Science', day school of the Department of Continuing Education, Oxford University, Rewley House, 29 January 2011).

Selected conference papers (since 2010)1.

  • ‘Magic bullets, wonder drugs and miracle cures: from Salvarsan to Covid vaccine, and between science and magic’, SHAC monthly seminar, 25th November 2021 (url for the SHAC YouTube page: https://youtu.be/zets-GdWCd4)
  • ‘Wonder drugs, Silver Bullets and Miracle Cures: medicines between science, magic and religion’, Oxford Brookes Lunchtime History Seminar, 14th May 2021.
  • ‘Drugs, ICI and the molecularisation of disease’, seminar of the Historical Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry, 20/04/21.
  • 'Tamoxifen, between poisonous substance and cancer cure', workshop on 'Occupational and Environmental Poisons in Industrial Societies, late 18th-21st c.', 14 February 2019, MFO, Oxford.
  • 'Oestrogen and its identities', workshop entitled 'Biographies of Materials at the crossroads between the Natural Sciences and Humanities', 4-5 March  2019, MFO, Oxford.
  • “From Ernest Fourneau to A.D. Little: consulting for Rhône-Poulenc in the 20th century” (paper presented at the BSHS Annual meeting, University of York, 6-9 July 2017).
  • “’Les Malades prennent la parole’: cancer narratives, doctor-patient relations, and the creation of a ‘health democracy’ in France, c. 1970-2010” (paper presented at a symposium on ‘Doctor-Doctor: global and historical perspectives on the doctor-patient relationship, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, 24 March 2017).
  • “Making Medicines in the North West: ICI from Blackely to Alderley Park” (Newcomen Society workshop on ‘Industrial Chemistry in the North West’, Widnes, Chesh. 2nd July 2016).
  • ‘'Chemistry, patents and the transformation of the European pharmaceutical industry in World War One' (RSCHG workshop on ‘Chemistry and World War 1’, 22 Oct. ’14)
  • “The Evolution of Doctor –Patient Communication in Cancer Research in France, c. 1975-2000” (SSHM 2014)
  • “Chemistry and the treatment of cancer, ca 1940s-1970s” (‘Chemistry and Medicine’, workshop of the RSCHG, 23 October 2013).
  • “Patent or publish? ICI Pharmaceuticals’ publication strategy in historical and comparative perspective” (‘Publishing the Sciences’ symposium, 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester 22-28 July 2013).
  • “When drug standards change, and standard drugs come to an end: pharmaceutical companies and the advent of biotechnology” (keynote lecture, Is This the End? The Eclipse of the Therapeutic Revolution, October 4-6, 2012, University of Zurich, Switzerland)
  • “From chemistry, to pharmacology, to biotechnology: Alfred Spinks’s trajectory from wartime chemist to government advisor” (SHAC general meeting, 24 November 2011, Oxford Brookes University, ‘Academics, Consultants, Industrialists and Government Chemists: The History of Chemists' Careers in England, 1880-c.1960’).
  • “Targeting the American market for cancer drugs: ICI and Rhône-Poulenc compared”, ESF DRUGS Network Conference on ‘Standardizing and marketing drugs in the 20th century’ held at the Institute for the History of Medicine, Charité, Berlin, 7-8 October 2010.
  • ‘Between public and private, between science and industry: the Medical Research Council and British pharmaceutical firms, 1920s-1960s’, session on ‘Civil Science and the Firm in mid-twentieth century Britain’, European Business History Association Annual Conference, Glasgow, 26-28 August 2010).
  • ‘Nationalisme et internationalisme dans la recherche pharmaceutique: Ernest Fourneau, des Etablissements Poulenc à l’Institut Pasteur’ (workshop of the Club d’Histoire de la Chimie, group of the Société Chimique de France, Paris, 23 June 2010).
  • ‘From dyestuffs to pharmaceuticals: ICI and the British drug industry, ca 1940s-1970s’ (‘The Rise and Fall of ICI’, meeting of the Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group, London, 19 March 2010).
  • ‘Chemistry, the pharmaceutical industry, and medicine in the twentieth century: drugs as “boundary objects”,’ SHAC Postgraduate Workshop in the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, Department of History and Philosophy of Science University of Cambridge, 8 January 2010.

Conference and seminar organisation (since 2010)

  • ‘The Changing Role of Consultants in Industry, c. 1850-2000’, Miason francaise d'Oxford, 10-11 May 2019
  • Conference panel for SSHM 2014: ‘From Coercion to Consent: Cancer Patients, Physicians and the State’.
  • Oxford Brookes History of Medicine Seminars, Semester 1, 2010-11: ‘Clinical trials, evidence, and human experimentation’.
  • Oxford History of Chemistry seminar series ‘Mastering Nature? Chemistry in History’, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11.5.   
  • ‘The Rise and Fall of ICI’, meeting of the Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group, London, 19 March 2010.

Further details


  • Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Cahiers Francois Viete
  • Deputy Editor of Ambix

Guest editorships

  • Guest editor with Jean-Paul Gaudilliere, 'The Era of Biomedicine: science, medicine and health in Britain and France, ca 1945-65', special issue of Medical History, 52 (2008).
  • Guest Editor of 'Pharmaceutical styles: French and British spheres of influence in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries', special issue of Pharmacy in History, 52 (2010).
  • Guest editor with Peter Reed, 'Chemistry, Consultants, and Companies, c. 1850-2000', special issue of Ambix, 67 (2020).

Other experience

  • 2007-2012: Member of the European Science Foundation Research Networking Programme on ‘Drug Standards, Standard Drugs’, and co-chair of the Working Group on Cardiovascular and Anti-cancer Drugs. 
  • 2005-2011: Secretary of the British Society for the History of Science.
  • 2006-2010: Editor of the Newsletter of the Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group.
  • 2006-2007: Research Associate, Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL.
  • 2006-2007: Research Associate with Prof. Roy Church, for a Wellcome Fund project on the post-World War Two history of the Burroughs Wellcome Co.
  • 2002-18: Member of the Historical Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • 2001-2002: Wellcome-Trust funded Research Associate with Judy Slinn, Oxford Brookes Business School. Project title: ‘Innovation in the UK pharmaceutical industry, 1948-78’.
  • 2000-2001: Wellcome-Trust funded Research Associate with Dr Frank James, the Royal Institution, London, for a project on ‘X-ray crystallography at the RI, and the history of molecular biology’.