Principal Investigators

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Birgit Nemec

Dr Birgit Nemec is a historian of science and medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. She is head of the research group, ‘Children at Risk: a History of Science and Society of Pregnancy and Reproduction in West Germany’. As co-lead with Dr Jesse Olszynko-Gryn on the project ‘Risky Hormones’, she is interested in the roles of patients and activists in the negotiation of knowledge and practices in the new history of reproduction. Her first book on the politics of anatomical images ca. 1920, Norm und Reform, was published by Wallstein Verlag in 2020.
University of Strathclyde

Jesse Olszynko-Gryn

Jesse Olszynko-Gryn is a historian of science, technology and medicine at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. As co-lead on Risky Hormones, he works with patient groups and other partners to historically investigate the contested use and regulation of pharmaceuticals in pregnancy and the risk of birth defects in the post-thalidomide world. His first book, A Woman’s Right to Know: Pregnancy Testing in Twentieth-Century Britain, is under contract with the MIT Press. At Strathclyde, he co-convenes the Disability Research Group.


Kübra Göksel

Kübra Göksel is a doctoral candidate at the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin and researcher at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Her research focuses on intersectionality, guest-worker migration in West Germany, working primarily with oral history sources. In her dissertation project, ‘“Ondan sonra…” – “Die türkische Frau” und die Migration 1960–2000’, she explores biographies of female migrants from Turkey as agents within the West-German migration regime.

Miriam Koppehl

Miriam Koppehl studied History, German and Romance Studies (French) at the University of Heidelberg and graduated in 2021. Her thesis was about the discourse on menstruation in the West German women's movement, with a special focus on the period between 1970 and 1990. Her research interests lie in gender and body history, with a particular focus on the German women’s (health) movement. Since 2020, she has been working under the direction of Birgit Nemec on the BMBF-funded project, “Risk Children: A Scientific and Social History of Pregnancy and Reproduction”; since 2022, under the direction of Birgit Nemec and Jesse Olszynko-Gryn on the “Risky Hormones” project.

Jennise Krusche

Jennise Krusche is a Berlin-based student worker, who is currently working towards her master’s degree at the Humboldt-University Berlin. Over the course of her studies, she has developed a particular interest in the history of medicine and gender. Her bachelor’s thesis explores the correlation of masculinity and war in frontline novels of the German interwar period. She plans to continue her research in questions of gender, medicine and sexuality in contemporary history.

Anja Suter

Anja Suter is a doctoral candidate at the University of Basel and researcher with the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Her research focuses on the transnational history of feminist movements, politics of reproduction, the history of labor, and international population politics. Her dissertation explores the epistemic and social history of the development of an oral contraceptive produced by a Swiss pharmaceutical company in India. Anja’s research is informed by feminist and (post-)colonial historiography and theorizing. She is co-editor of the latest edition of Frauengeschichte(n) as well as a founding member of the collective Frauen*geschichte(n).ch, which curates a collection of sources and archives on feminist history in Switzerland online.

Sophia Wagemann

Sophia Wagemann’s Ph.D. project centres around the history of hormonal contraception in the GDR and FRG. While focusing on the process by which side effects are established and communicated to the public I am including transnational medical regulation schemes. The project aims to investigate the continuities of the gendered explanation of side effects since thalidomide.


Eira Bjørvik

Dr. Eira Bjørvik is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo. She is specifically concerned with history of reproductive medicine and new constellations of biopower and biopolitics.

Tinne Claes

Dr. Tinne Claes is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Her research concerns the history of medicine, gender and sexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For the Risky Hormones project, she studies the history of hormone pregnancy tests in the Low Countries.

Heather Dron

Heather Dron is a Research Fellow with the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab. She is a historian of medicine and public health who studies pregnancy, prenatal care, and infant disability. She completed her PhD in history of health science at the University of California San Francisco in 2016 and is a former fellow at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Yolanda Eraso

Prof Yolanda Eraso is Professor of Health Studies and Director of the Centre for Primary Health and Social Care at London Metropolitan University. My research interests encompass two main areas: the first, is in applied health research, where I currently investigate adherence behaviours to adjuvant hormonal therapy medication for women with breast cancer. A second strand of my research draws upon and seeks to integrate historical and contemporary intersections of gender, culture, and biology to examine scientific developments and clinical applications of hormonal treatments. My work has been conducted in Latin America, the US and the UK. Within the Risky Hormones project, my focus is on the uses of ‘sexual hormone’ drugs during pregnancy and teratogenesis in Latin America.

Charlotte Greenhalgh

Dr Charlotte Greenhalgh is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Waikato. She is the author of Aging in Twentieth-Century Britain (University of California Press, 2018). Charlotte is currently researching the history of pregnancy in twentieth-century New Zealand using women’s letters, diaries, contributions to social science and medical research, and archived oral history interviews. She is also working on collaborative research projects on the histories of perinatal medicine and hormonal pregnancy tests in New Zealand and beyond. Charlotte co-convenes the Aotearoa New Zealand Gender History Seminar, which meets every six weeks via Zoom to discuss current research in gender history.

Julie Hernandez

Julie Hernandez is a Research Associate Professor with the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (New Orleans, USA). She has been working on service delivery, M&E, advocacy and pilot projects to increase access to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls living in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC) for more than twelve years. She is a native French speaker with technical expertise in GIS and spatial analysis, as well as quantitative and qualitative research methods. Since 2016, she has led formative research on the policy and programmatic environments for Emergency Contraception (EC) in DRC, and on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of EC users. In 2018, she completed a large mystery client study in 800+ informal drugstores to assess quality of family planning services for young women seeking emergency contraceptive solutions in Kinshasa. Julie is also a member of the LNG 1.5 mg for Pericoital Use Global Advisory Board (CIFF / Bill & Melinda Gates investment). Her current research looks at opportunities to leverage community-based provision and the private sector to increase access to and sustained uses of modern contraception.

Solveig Jülich

Solveig Jülich is Professor of History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research focuses on the history of visual and material culture of reproduction and the relationship between medicine and media during the twentieth century. Between 2015 and 2021 she directed the interdisciplinary research programme, “Medicine at the Borders of Life”, which explored controversies and emerging values surrounding the uses of fetuses for medical knowledge production, vaccine and pharmaceutical development in Sweden over a long historical period (see She is co-editor of the volumes History of Participatory Media (Routledge, 2011), Knowledge in Motion (Makadam, 2018) and Communicating the History of Medicine (Manchester University Press, 2020). Currently, she is finishing a book on the historical trajectories of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson’s images of embryos and fetuses.

Carol Tsang

Dr Carol Tsang is a historian of gender, reproductive health and modern Hong Kong at the University of Hong Kong. She coordinates and teaches courses on gender studies, motherhood and family politics. Her current project, “Better Babies: Eugenic Reproduction in Modern Hong Kong”, explores the production and transmission of reproductive technologies and knowledge in the early twentieth century.

Merle Wessel

Dr. Merle Weßel is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of medical ethics at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. She defended her PhD on eugenics and feminism in the Nordic countries in 2018 at the University of Helsinki. As medical ethicist and medical historian her research interests are in the area of questions of gender, diversity and intersectionality in medicine and health care. She has researched the history of eugenics, racial theory and sexuality. Currently she works on projects about migrant care, racism in medicine and gender stereotyping in care robotics.


John Abraham

John Abraham is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King’s College, London. His research focuses on the politics of pharmaceuticals innovation, safety. efficacy, regulation and cost-effectiveness, especially in the UK, EU and US from the late nineteenth century to the present day. He has been Specialist Expert Adviser to the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Health Select Committee extensive ‘Inquiry into the Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry’ and delivered over a hundred public/plenary lectures on pharmaceutical policy, including to World Health Organization, Social Science & Health Research Councils of Canada (GIERSO), International Society of Pharmacovigiliance, Royal College of Psychiatrists, European Congress of Toxicology, European Science Foundation, British Medical Association, INFARMED, the International Society of Social Pharmacy, Basel Institute on Governance, European Commission MEDUSE programme at University of Liege, and the All-Party UK Parliamentary Group on Corporate Responsibility. His over a hundred publications in the field include the books: Science, Politics and the Pharmaceutical Industry (1995); The Therapeutic Nightmare: the battle over the world’s most controversial sleeping pill (1999); Regulating Medicines in Europe: competition expertise and public health (2000); Regulation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (2003); Unhealthy Pharmaceutical Regulation: innovation, politics and promissory science (2013); and most recently book Controlling Pharmaceutical Risks: science, cancer and the geneticisation of drug testing (forthcoming 2022).

Salim Al-Gailani

Salim Al-Gailani is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, where he lectures and supervises in the history of medicine. After completing his PhD on the history of antenatal care in Britain, he joined the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Generation to Reproduction’ Strategic Award at Cambridge as a Research Associate. Broadly interested in the histories of modern medicine, biomedical sciences and public health, his research has focused in particular on transformations in the experience and management of pregnancy and childbirth since the late nineteenth century. He is currently completing a book that examines the history of folic acid as a technology of pregnancy, with its implications beyond the prevention of birth defects for the globalization of biomedical knowledge, the management of risk and the politics of nutrition.

Tobias Arndt

Tobias Arndt studied history at the University of Essen and has been working on the history of drugs that cause congenital malformations such as thalidomide, female sex hormones, and valproate. In this context he has been exploring collections of about 20 archives such as the national archives in Britain, France, and Germany. He published or supported several publication and film projects for the Guardian, Reuters, Der Spiegel, BBC, Sky News, WDR and BR, and a monograph, the thalidomide catastrophe, in 2018. More specifically he supports the Association of Children damaged by hormone pregnancy tests. In this context he assisted the chair of the association with two UK Government investigations: the MHRA EWG on Primodos and the the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review. He has been working for DysNet, a European umbrella organisation that represents almost 40 associations of people born with congenital malformations since 2012.

Eddie Bolger

Eddie Bolger is a documentary filmmaker. Through his work with the Derek Jarman Lab, he specialises in developing and producing film projects in collaboration with academics as a form of extended research practice and public engagement. Commissioners and funders of this work to date include the Leverhulme Trust, Wellcome and the BBC. His most recent collaboration in this field RITES UNDONE, which explores the role of ethnopsychiatric practice within the context of Nigerian victims of sex-trafficking living in Italy, is currently screening at film festivals and is also available to view online. He lives and works in NRW, Germany.

Sarah Bull

Sarah Bull is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Ryerson University. A book historian, her work focuses on the production and circulation of texts, primarily in the nineteenth century. Much of her research focuses on the practices and politics of circulating information about sex and reproduction in Britain, and on the ways in which sexual entertainment and treatments for sexual and reproductive health problems were marketed.

Sharon Harltes

Sharon Hartles is a researcher with the University of Strathclyde, member of the Open University’s Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative Member of the British Society of Criminology, and a published critical criminologist. She is interested in the crimes of the powerful elite and how crime and justice systems (locally and globally) are constructed to protect certain interests over others, whilst simultaneously exacerbating harms against already marginalised and vulnerable groups within society. Sharon is impassioned by criminology and social justice movements and this passion is reflected in her research. In recent work, she has shone a light on the lack of truth, justice and accountability around (ongoing) harms resulting from the Grenfell tragedy, SNC-Lavalin affair, and the Primodos, mesh and valproate scandals.

Tim Lewens

Tim Lewens is Professor of Philosophy of Science and Head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. His books include The Biological Foundations of Bioethics and the edited collection Risk: Philosophical Perspectives. He is a former member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Marie Lyon

Marie Lyon is Chair of the Association for Children damaged by oral hormone pregnancy tests. ACDHPT formed in 1978 and initiated legal action against Schering in 1981, but the action was withdrawn when we realised we were outnumbered by Schering’s medical experts. There were 31 experts for Schering and out of the ten experts originally willing to give evidence for ACDHPT, two withdrew during the proceedings. ACDHPT then became inactive from 1982 until 2010 when it reformed. Evidence was discovered in the National Archives at Kew, which exposed the culpability of both the UK government regulators and the German regulators in keeping Primodos/Duogynon on the market. I became Chair of ACDHPT in 2012 and started to collaborate with Andre Sommer shortly thereafter.

Bibia Pavard

Dr. Bibia Pavard is Associate Professor of Contemporary History at Paris Panthéon-Assas University. Her research focuses on the history contraception and abortion in France in relation with feminist mobilisations and in a transnational perspective.

Alexandra Roux

Dr Alexandra Roux is a postdoctoral fellow at University Paris 13 and Iris, France, specialized in sociology of health and medicine and socio-history of contraceptives. Her PhD research focused on the imposition of a pill-centered contraceptive norm in France between the 1960s and the 2000s and the role of doctors and pharmaceutical industries in the construction of this norm. Her current research interests focus on constructs of hierarchies between contraceptives, representations of drug consumption and social inequalities in access to care.

Ylva Söderfeldt

Dr Alexandra Roux is a postdoctoral fellow at University Paris 13 and Iris, France, specialized in sociology of health and medicine and socio-history of contraceptives. Her PhD research focused on the imposition of a pill-centered contraceptive norm in France between the 1960s and the 2000s and the role of doctors and pharmaceutical industries in the construction of this norm. Her current research interests focus on constructs of hierarchies between contraceptives, representations of drug consumption and social inequalities in access to care.

Andre Sommer

My name is Andre Sommer and I am a board member of the Duogynon Network. I am affected myself and have been living with an artificial outlet for more than forty years. We have been trying to get clarification in this case since 2009. At that time, a lawsuit before the Berlin Regional Court failed because Bayer used the defence of statute of limitations to win the case. In the last thirteen years, thousands of emails have reached me and many people described their experiences with the drug in terrible reports. Our association demands a quick clarification of the case, an apology from the government and care for those affected. It is time that we finally clear this up completely.

Sezin Topçu

Sezin Topcu is a historian and sociologist of science, technology and medicine. Since 2011, she has been a senior researcher at the French National Research Centre, and a lecturer at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (France). Between 2016 and 2021, she was the coordinator of an international research project titled, ‘Overmedicalization of childbirth as a public problem: material trajectories, public controversies and institutional changes’, funded by Agence Nationale de la Recherche. Sezin is currently preparing a monograph on public and feminist contestations of the French obstetric care system since 1970s. Several sections of her forthcoming book deal with drugs and hormones administered during childbirth and the relevant risk debates and controversies.

Neil Vargesson

Neil Vargesson is a Chair in Developmental Biology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, where he studies how organisms develop from a single cell into a fully formed being with a head, two arms and two legs. He is interested in the role the blood vessels play in development and in the origins of birth defect and in particular how some medicines and drugs caused birth differences and has published widely on the mechanisms of action of thalidomide and other drugs. His group is also interested in drug and medicine safety. His work on drug actions on the embryo has influenced Government policy around the world. He received his undergraduate BSc in Human Biology at Kings College London and his PhD in developmental biology at University College London (in the labs of Prof Lewis Wolpert and Prof Cheryll Tickle). He also sits on several editorial boards of scientific journals and sits on grant panels for the NC3Rs and Sarcoma UK. He was elected FRSE (Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; National Academy of Scotland) in 2021.

Ludger Wimmelbücker

Ludger Wimmelbücker has been a research fellow at the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine in Berlin working on a research project that deals with the global history of thalidomide from the 1950s up the 1980s.
After completing a PhD in modern African history in 2000, and has studied various aspects of East African history and culture. Among his publications is a socio-economic history of the Kilimanjaro region, c. 1800-1920 (2002), a co-authored book on the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 (2003), and the life history of an African teacher and author who taught Swahili in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century (2009).

Advisory board

Ruth Blue (Thalidomide Society)

Maud Bracke (University of Glasgow)

Tatjana Buklijas (University of Auckland)

David Herzberg (University at Buffalo)

Sarah Hodges (KCL)

Nick Hopwood (University of Cambridge)

Agata Ignaciuk (University of Granada)

Nils Kessel (University of Strasbourg)

Solène Lellinger (University of Paris)

Ilana Löwy (CNRS)

Tamar Novick (MPIWG)

Caroline Rusterholz (University of Cambridge)

Susanne Schmidt (Humboldt University)

Heiko Stoff (MHH)


Read the latest articles from the team

3 May 2022

What’s at stake in the fake? Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets, and global health

An event of the Topic of the Year 2021|22 “Measuring the Living” and the InterdisciplinaryResearch Group “Future of Medicine: Health for All” of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy ofSciences and Humanities in…
19 October 2021

The Duogynon controversy and ignorance production in post-thalidomide West Germany

This article examines the West German controversy over Duogynon, a ‘hormone pregnancy test’ and the drug at the centre of the first major, international debate over iatrogenic birth defects in…
22 October 2018

A historical argument for regulatory failure in the case of Primodos and other hormone pregnancy tests

The drug Primodos and other hormone pregnancy tests (HPTs) remained on the British market for about a decade after they were first implicated, in 1967, as a possible cause of…

UK-German Funding Initiative in the Humanities, 2020-2025