Professor Mark Jackson: Allergies and asthma
After studying the history of infanticide and 'feeble-mindedness' at the Universities of Leeds and Manchester, he moved to Exeter in 1998 with a Wellcome Trust University Award, to investigate the history of allergy and asthma in twentieth-century Britain.He became Centre Director in 2000.
Under Professor Jackson's leadership, the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter received two five-year Strategic Awards in the History of Medicine from the Wellcome Trust in 2003 and 2008, to explore the links between health, medicine and environment.
In 2006, his acclaimed social history 'Allergy: The history of a modern malady', was published by Reaktion Books. Publishers Weekly described it as a 'masterful overview of the evolution of allergy' and the first print run sold out within five months.
Professor Jackson followed this with 'Asthma: The biography', published in 2009 by Oxford University Press as part of the Oxford series, Biographies of Diseases, which tells the stories of four conditions, asthma, diabetes, cholera and hysteria.
The book describes the strikingly consistent personal experience of asthma over 2,000 years, alongside the many variable medical explanations of the condition, which have ranged from the accumulation of phlegm in ancient and medieval medicine to modern theories of nervous and allergic bronchospasm.
The book also explores the possible relationship between asthma and modern environments and lifestyles, including triggers such as pollution, dust, diet and over-hygienic environments. And it looks at the impact of pharmaceutical approaches to treatment, particularly the introduction of Ventolin and Becotide in the 1970s and some more recent innovations, such as anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapies, which have helped to improve the outlook for many asthmatic patients.
Described as 'fascinating stuff', by The Scotsman, the book was used by Asthma UK to develop their Asthma Timeline on their website, intended as an educational tool.
That research led to further work on the history and evolution of stress, funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Programme grant.Professor Jackson's next book, 'The Age of Stress: Science and the search for stability', is due to be published in 2012 by OUP.