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Professor Nick Hopwood

Professor Nick Hopwood

Professor of History of Science and Medicine

History of modern medicine and biology


A historian of biological and medical sciences, I am interested generally in visual communication and specifically in reproduction, embryology, anatomy and evolution. Having worked most on German-speaking Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I increasingly study Britain and the United States and range from 1750 to the present.

I am writing Human Embryos: A Visual History and researching The Many Births of the Test-Tube Baby, a history of claims to IVF. My recent book, Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud, tells the extraordinary story of an alleged forgery that became a textbook classic. Spanning from the 19th to the 21st century, and from the German lands to the US, it explores how scientific images succeed and fail, become taken for granted and cause trouble. My first book, Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio, is available from the Whipple Museum.

I am a deputy chair of the University’s new Strategic Research Initiative on Reproduction. From 2004 to 2018 I was principal holder of Wellcome enhancement and strategic awards on the theme 'Generation to Reproduction'. These led, among many other things, to Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day, a large, accessible, illustrated volume just published by Cambridge University Press, and to the continuing Generation to Reproduction Seminar

I came to history of science and medicine after postdoctoral work in developmental biology. Having lectured in Cambridge HPS and at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, I became a teaching officer here in 1998 and won a Pilkington teaching prize in 2006. I co-direct the Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences (the 2019 theme is 'Life and Death') and am history section editor of Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online, an associate editor of the Journal of the History of Biology and a council member of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology.

Professor Nick Hopwood on the HPS Department website

The 'Making Visible Embryos' website


History and Philosophy of Science:
Professor of History of Science and Medicine