Harvard chooses historian to chair Australian Studies

5 April 2017

Harvard names a University of Sydney expert Chair in Australian Studies for a third consecutive year.

Professor Warwick Anderson, the latest University of Sydney appointee to the Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard.

Professor Warwick Anderson, the latest University of Sydney appointee to the Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard. Image: Hugh Davies Photography

The University of Sydney and Harvard University have announced the appointment of Professor Warwick Anderson to the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Chair in Australian Studies for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Professor Anderson is a leading historian of science, medicine, and race, and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, who trained and practised as a medical doctor before becoming an academic. He will spend a year teaching courses on Ecological Visions of Human Disease and Cultures and Histories of Indigenous Health in the American university’s Department of the History of Science.

“It is a great privilege to be able to engage intensively with some of the leading scholars in the history of science, with people who have reshaped the field in the past 20 or so years,” said Professor Anderson.

“Historians of science and medicine in both Australia and the United States recently have turned their attention to the processes through which science has gone ‘global’. I hope my appointment will help to foster productive trans-Pacific discussions of this and many other pressing issues in the discipline.

“I believe my current research in the history of Indigenous health will offer something new and interesting to the range of subjects and approaches available at Harvard. At the same time, I expect to learn from colleagues at Harvard about their vision for the future of the history of science and medicine,” said Professor Anderson.

Professor Anderson is the author of several prize-winning books and was the recipient, with co-author  Professor Ian Mackay, of the 2015 NSW Premier's General History Award for Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity.

He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, and the Royal Society of New South Wales. Additionally, he serves on the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science of the Australian Academy of Science.

It will be his second spell at Harvard following roles between 1992 and 1995 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of the History of Science and as Assistant Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“We are delighted Warwick Anderson will be our next Harvard Chair of Australian Studies,” said the University of Adelaide’s Professor Nicholas Jose, Chair of the Australian Advisory Committee.

“As a distinguished historian, he has explored colonial medicine and science’s mistreatment of the first Australians and challenged Eurocentric histories of this period. He has advanced understanding of the diseases that contribute to the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples and other Australians. We look forward to him sharing these perspectives at Harvard,” said Professor Jose.

It is the third consecutive year that a University of Sydney academic has been appointed to the distinguished professorship. 

Sydney's history of Harvard Chair appointees

The visiting professorship was established at Harvard in 1976, as a result of a gift from the Australian government to mark the bicentennial of the United States. Professor Anderson is the seventh University of Sydney academic to be Chair since 1976.

Previously, the former chancellor of the University of Sydney, the late Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE, sociologist Professor Raewyn Connell, the now Cambridge-based historian Professor Alison Bashford, and constitutional law expert Professor Helen Irving have held the visiting professorship.

Professor Ben Saul, Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney, will be chair for the 2017-2018 academic year. He follows Professor Penny Russell, the University’s Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, who has been Chair for 2016-2017.

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)