Today’s sad news for historians of medicine (of all periods and specialities) is that the Wellcome Trust and University College London (UCL) have decided to close the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. It will be winded down over a two-year period.
The decision probably doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who have followed the policy of the Wellcome Trust closely during the last couple of years. Nevertheless it is sad news. The Centre — which was established in 1999 when the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine was taken over by UCL — is probably best known among the general educated public in the English-speaking world as the institution where the late Roy Porter worked.
For specialists in the history of medicine it has been a site for scholarly pilgrimage. Not just because of Roy Porter, Bill Bynum, Vivian Nutton, Janet Browne and other excellent scholars who worked full-time there, but also because of hundreds of phd students, postdocs and senior guest researchers from all over the world who spent longer and shorter times at the Academic Unit/Centre. And not least because of the proximity to the library of the history of medicine — the best of its kind in the world.
The decision seems to have come as a surprise to the Centre. As late as a month ago the website was revamped, and last week they launched a blog for the Friends of the Centre.
The Centre is starting the wind-down period with a three day international conference on the ‘Future of Medical History’ to be held 15-17 July 2010.