Robert Michael Brain specializes in the history of science, technology, and medicine, and European cultural history.
He is the author of The Pulse of Modernism: Physiological Aesthetics in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015), and over sixty articles, chapters, and reviews. He co-edited Varieties of Empathy in Science, Art, and Culture, a special edition of Science in Context 25 (2012); and Han Christian Ørsted and the Romantic Legacy in Science (2007). He was co-curator of two innovative exhibitions: Empires of Physics and 1900: The New Age, at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge.
Before coming to UBC, Robert Brain taught at Harvard and Stanford universities. He has held fellowships with the University of Cambridge, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, the Free University of Berlin, the Zentrum fur Literatur und Kulturforschung Berlin, and the University of Uppsala. Brain received a Ph.D. in History from UCLA, an M.A. in History of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.
Robert M. Brain is co-editor of the Routledge book series Science, Technology, and Culture 1700-1950. https://www.routledge.com/series/STAC
Disease has comprised a fundamental element of human experience in all times and places. But human understanding of the nature and causes of death and bodily suffering has varied widely, and so have the measures of prevention, control, and cure taken in different historical societies. By studying disease in history we gain a window on the beliefs and institutions of different societies, as well as an understanding of the nature of diseases and of human suffering and resilience. This course examines the experience of disease in a variety of historical contexts from the European Middle Ages to the present, and in several different regions of the world. We will emphasize the historical diversity of understandings of the causes and meanings of illness and disease. We will examine both how those conceptual differences have often grown from social, cultural, political and economic conditions and how different ways of understanding illness and death have also exerted profound influence on the culture and organization of society.
(Cross-listed with PHIL 260) An introduction to the historical development, conceptual foundations, and cultural significance of contemporary science. Themes will vary from year to year. HIST 220 will introduce students to the methods of historical practice, including primary-source analysis, historical writing, library and research skills, and public history.
Welcome to the Anthropocene. It’s all different now. History is different now. We grew up believing that “human history” and “geological time” and were quite distinct, with one extending across ages beyond imagination and the other occurring as a tiny blip. But in recent years, scientific findings about the lasting effects of climate change, deforestation, ocean acidification, and other human-caused natural changes have led us to a new realization: we now live in an era of the earth’s history that is defined by human influence, the Anthropocene. The stakes may be nothing less than human survival, of finding a mode of living in this reality. History therefore has a new calling: to survive we need to understand how we got to this point, and how we might proceed. We need (among other things) new, reflexive approaches to old historical questions of capitalism, the nation-state, the British empire, the Cold War, and much more. But we also need many new historical questions about the deep history of the human species and its environments and relations with other species. We need new understanding of the role of ecological crises in historical events like Victorian colonialism, the Holocaust, or the current civil war in Syria, or the chemicals that collect in our bodies wreaking havoc on our mitochondria. In this course we will read some of the trailblazing new work of historians (Chakrabarty, McNeil, Bonneuil, etc.) on these questions, and we will also take the critical work of scientists and thinkers, the reflections of anthropologists (Tsing, Descola, Latour), the imaginings of artists, writers, and musicians, and will try to listen to the earth itself and the myriad beings with which we collaborate to survive.