Kevin Brown

England, United Kingdom
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About Kevin Brown

Historian, Author and Speaker

Kevin Brown is an authority on the history of medicine. A graduate of Hertford College, University of Oxford and University College, London, he is Trust Archivist to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum Curator at St Mary’s Hospital, London, a museum and archives which he established. He was Chairman of the London Museums of Health and Medicine, 2001-04, and is a Trustee of the charity St Mary’s Hospital Association. He was awarded a Gladstone’s Library Scholarship for 2015.

He is the author of seven books: Penicillin Man: Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution (2004); The Pox: The Life and Near Death of a Very Social Disease (2006); Fighting Fit: Health, Medicine and War in the Twentieth Century (2008); Poxed and Scurvied: the Story of Sickness and Health at Sea (2011);  Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940 (2013);  The Seasick Admiral: Nelson and the Health of the Navy (2015); and, Fittest of the Fit: Health and Morale in the Royal Navy, 1939-1945.

He has lectured widely in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and the United States, and onboard cruise ships. He was the first historian and first non-scientist to deliver the Andrew J. Moyer Lecture at the US Department of Agriculture National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (2001) . His audiences range from  academic and professional groups, to school children and women’s institutes, in universities and on cruise ships, and as an after-dinner speaker.

Speaker on the History of Health and Medicine

Lectures and talks are tailor made for the audience and the occasion.

Examples of popular lectures include:

  • Doctors at Sea: Health and Fitness on Ocean Liners

An entertaining account of the experiences of doctors on cruise ships in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

  • Crusading Medics: the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta

A tale of an order of knights who fought and nursed in protection of the sick

  • Would You Trust a Surgeon with your Haircut or leave your Operation to a Hairdresser?

How the modern surgeon arose from the profession of barber surgeon

  • Plague! Pestilence! Panic!

The Black Death, the Great Plague, epidemics: the fear they induced

  • A Night with Venus, A Lifetime of Mercury

The story of a very social disease, Syphilis, its victims, and the cures that were worse than the malady

  • Victorian Medicine: Fight against Infection

The conquest of infectious disease in the nineteenth century

  • The Health of the Seaman

The story of sickness and health at sea

  • Richard Mead, George Anson’s Circumnavigation of the Globe, and the Health of the Seaman

Anson’s round the world voyage should have been a national triumph but turned into a national tragedy thanks to scurvy

  • Medicine at Sea in the Age of Nelson: It is Easier for an Officer to keep Men Healthy than for a Physician to Cure them

How Lord Nelson’s personal medical history and his concern for the health of his men contributed to his victories at sea

  • Scran and Grog: Naval Diet and the Health of the Seaman

A look at the diet of the sailor down the ages and the effects of it on his health

  • Was the Great War Good for Medicine?

The story of how doctors and nurses brought something positive from the First World War in the form of medical advances 

  • War, Women and Wounds

The role of women in caring for the wounded in the First World War and the forgotten story of all women-led military hospitals, including a suffragette hospital

  • War and Medicine: How to Stay Fighting Fit in the Second World War

How medicine helped to win the war through keeping everyone fit

  • Medicine in the Blitz

Staying healthy and alive on the British Home Front in the Second World War: a tale of ordinary people under attack

  • Innovating for Victory

Medical innovation in the Second World War that helped to win the war

  • The Mould that changed the World

How a chance observation by Alexander Fleming in 1928 revolutionised medicine and how it changed the world.

  • The Foundation of British Naval Hospitals at Home and Abroad: With Great Magnificence and Order

The Story of the naval hospitals in Britain and at Menorca, Gibraltar, Malta and Bermuda

  • Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience

The story of emigrants from Europe on ships bound for The Americas and Australasia, how they kept well and the health hurdles they had to hump

  • Unintended Consequences Licensed to Kill?: What connects the bacteriologist Robert Koch, Malaria, Marshal Tito’s Holiday Resort and James Bond’s Italian tailor

A light-hearted look at an unlikely chain of connections covering the history of medicine, politics, fashion and film

  • The Jewel in the Post-War Crown: the  NHS,Origins and Retrospective

The story of the jewel in the post-Imperial Crown

  • All that Wheezes

Asthma through the ages

  • Doctors and Nurses in Dickens: Scalpels and Gamps

An amusing look at how Charles Dickens depicted doctors and nurses – and the truth behind his vivid characters

  • Death will Seize the Doctor Too: Shakespeare and the Medicine of his Time

What do the plays of William Shakespeare tell us about health and medicine in his time?

  • The Doctor and the Vampyr? The case of Dr John Polidori

Lord Byron’s personal physician and disputed authorship over his novel about a vampire

  • “The Poet is a Physician”: John Keats Poet and Doctor

John Keats, his early career as a doctor and how it informed his poetry

  • The Doctors’ Dilemma: A Play for Today?

The story behind George Bernard Shaw’s satire of the medical profession, its inspiration in the work of Almroth Wright, Alexander Fleming’s mentor, and its relevance for today when decisions need to be made on the rationing of scarce medical resources among too many patients

  • Arandora Star, 2 July 1940, A  ‘Lack of discrimination’ that led to a needless sacrifice of life

The sinking of the Arandora Star and the internment of enemy aliens in the Second World War

  • If It’s Old and Dusty it Belongs in the Archives

Or – It shouldn’t happen to an archivist!

Anecdotes from the speaker’s own experiences of bizarre happenings in Archives, Museums and on the quest for historical knowledge.


A Selection of Organisations worked with:

Formal dinners, lunch clubs, social clubs, universities, schools, professional societies, the armed forces, cruise ships, women’s institutes,  local history societies, museums, libraries, men’s clubs, special interest groups … and perhaps your organisation too.

  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Princess Cruises
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Institute of Naval Medicine
  • London Scottish Regiment
  • Shaw Society, London
  • International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Rutgers University
  • Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore
  • National Tartan Day Organisation, Washington DC
  • University of Rome Centre for Museum Education
  • Hellenic Medical Society and Eteria Ellinon Epistimon
  • Royal College of Nursing history of nursing forum, London
  • Association of Science Education, London
  •  Royal College of Surgeons, Hunterian Museum
  •  British Society for History of Pharmacy
  • School of Pharmacy, University of London
  • University of Brighton and Sussex Medical School History of Medicine Society
  • Archives et Bibliothèques de Belgique/Archief-en-bibliotheekwezen in België
  • Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, London
  • History of Plastics Society, London
  • Oscar Stewart Museum of Medical History, Lincoln
  • Hitchin Museum, Miss Lewis lecturer
  • Brentwood Museum Society
  • Institute of Biology
  • Liverpool University Department of Microbiology
  •  US Department of Agriculture National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research
  •  National Army Museum, London
  • Sankey Clinico-Pathological Society, Birmingham
  • Society of General Microbiology
  • Royal Society 250th Anniversary, Lens of Life Lecture series
  • International Thyroid and Parathyroid Conference, London, after dinner speaker
  • Friends of St Mary’s Hospital
  • Friends of Hammersmith Hospital
  • St Mary’s Hospital Past and Present Nurses League
  • West London Hospital Nurses League and Benevolent Society
  •  Open Age
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • British Medical Association
  • Society for Applied Microbiology
  •  Amici del Isla del Rey, Menorca (lecture in aid of restoration of first permanent, purpose-built British naval hospital)
  • Ehrlich II Conference, Nuremberg, keynote speaker
  • Old Operating Theatre Museum
  • London and Middlesex Archaeological Society
  • London Borough of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
  • City of London Libraries
  • University of the Third Age
  • Quest Men’s Club, Ilford
  • Twickenham Probus Club
  • Pinner Probus Club
  • Jewish Association of Cultural Societies
  • City Lit, London
  • History of Medical Sciences Society
  • Havering Museum, Romford
  • London Borough of Havering Libraries
  • London Borough of Richmond Libraries
  • Islington Museum and Local History Centre
  • Foundling Hospital Museum
  • Ealing Forum
  • Society of Genealogists
  • Institute of Biomedical and Pharmacological Research, Nuremberg
  • University of Bolton

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