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Dr Tarquin Holmes

Dr Tarquin HolmesIndependent Researcher
My project, ‘Iatric Networks: Circulations of Medical Personnel, Bacteriological Knowledge and Racial Politics between Scottish Universities and South Africa, 1865-1914’, will evaluate connections between Scottish medical schools (particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh) and late 19th and early 20th century colonial South Africa. I will examine the movement of medical personnel between Scotland and South Africa, especially the key role of Scottish medical schools in training both emigrée and locally born South African doctors. I will further explore how novel medical knowledge and practices travelled via these networks of visitation, migration and settlement, with a focus on the circulation of germ theory and of anti-bacterial strategies such as the carbolic acid-based antiseptic system developed by Joseph Lister at Glasgow. I will moreover assess to what extent new theories of disease influenced the movement c. 1900 towards coercive urban segregation in Cape Town and other South African towns and cities, which has been attributed by Swanson (1977) to a racially discriminatory ‘sanitation syndrome’. I will further discuss the role of Scottish-trained doctors in both advocating for and resisting against racially discriminatory policies in the period up to the First World War.


I completed my PhD (Philosophy) at the University of Exeter in 2016, having also carried out my Bachelor’s (History and Philosophy) and Master’s (History and Philosophy of Biology) studies there. My thesis, ‘Domesticating the Wild Type: A Historical Investigation of the Role of the Domestic-Wild Divide in Scientific Knowledge Production’, explored the history of western ideas about the movement of animals and plants across the domestic-wild boundary and the role of these ideas in evolutionary and hereditarian thinking and experimental practice. Between 2018 and 2021, I worked in a postdoctoral post at the Department of Sociology at LSE supporting Dr Carrie Friese in her research on the role of care in animal science, particularly the historical and socio-political context of debates around animal welfare, with a focus on the 1875 Royal Commission on Vivisection. I am currently an independent researcher.

Research and Teaching Interests

  • History of medicine in southern Africa.
  • Medicine and scientific racism.
  • History of animal experimentation.
  • History of animal and medical law.
  • History of physiology.
  • History of bacteriology & epidemiology.
  • Colonial medicine.
  • History of the laboratory life sciences.


BacteriologyColonial MedicineEpidemiologyPhysiologyRace