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Dr Philippa Hellawell

Early Career Development Fellow in the History of Early

Modern Medicine


Twitter Handle: @pbhellawell

After receiving my BA and MA in Early Modern History from the

University of York, I moved to King’s College London to pursue my

doctoral studies. I subsequently worked as a Teaching Fellow in the

History of Science and Medicine at the University of York and was

awarded the Caird Senior Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum in 2017-8. In September 2018, I returned to King’s as Early Career Development Fellow in the History of Early Modern Medicine.

My research interests lie primarily in the interaction of science, technology, and medicine with early modern society. Because I see science as a part of, and product of society, I am interested in examining the way the social experiences, material concerns, and political priorities of a range of practitioners and institutions shaped the production of knowledge in this period. More specifically, I use the British maritime world as a lens through which to consider the embeddedness of science, technology and medicine, looking at how the production, circulation, and application of knowledge – from the cataloguing of stars to theories of tides, experimental ships to new diving engines – were shaped by the challenges of global expansion.

Arising from my broad interest in authority and expertise, the relationship between science and politics has been the chief focus of much of my research. I am currently completing my first monograph, which examines the interactions between science, technology and the processes of state- and empire-building in the late-seventeenth and early eighteenth-century British maritime world. Moving away from the emphasis on direct collaboration between scientific institutions and their governments, I take an expansive view of both science and state, and locate their intersection in a variety of very different sites, from ships, dockyards, and the classrooms of would-be navigators, to the court, the marketplace, and colonial ports.

My future research intends to expand on these themes by considering the circulation of early modern knowledge – scientific, technological and medical – on a broader global scale. I plan two separate but related projects on different scientific roles in the system of British global power; sea-surgeons on the medical side, and engineers on the technological. Through these projects, I aim to demonstrate the variety of expertise involved in fusing the enterprises of science and empire throughout the early modern period, firmly embedding science, technology and medicine within their global contexts.

I am dedicated to communicating my research, and the history of science, technology and medicine more generally, to wide-ranging audiences. I am deeply involved in school outreach, have participated in local history festivals, lectured for the Historical Association, and acted as a consultant for historical documentaries and exhibitions.

Recent Publications:

Hellawell, Philippa. ‘“The best and most practical philosophers”: seamen and the authority of experience in early modern science’, History of Science:

Hellawell, Philippa. ‘Diving engines, submarine knowledge and ‘the wealth fetch’d out of the sea’, Renaissance Studies:

Recent Grants, Awards, and Prizes:

  • Dibner Fellowship in the History of Science and Technology, Huntington Library

  • Lewis Walpole Library Grant, Yale University

  • Caird Senior Fellowship, National Maritime Museum

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