Professor Nicolas Rasmussen

MA Chicago, MPhil Cambridge, PhD Stanford, MPH Sydney
School of Humanities & Languages


9385 2361
Room 314, Morven Brown
Kensington Campus


Tuesday 2-3:30 (in teaching weeks) and by appointment
Fields: History and Philosophy of Medicine, Historical Studies
Tags: Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified, Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society


Nicolas Rasmussen is a Professor in the School of Humanities. He has higher degrees in history and philosophy of science, developmental biology, and public health. 

His research has dealt with the role of instrumentation in shaping scientific knowledge, the history of biotechnology, molecular biology and its cultural and intellectual history, the history of drug abuse and pharmaceuticals in the United States since 1900, and the influence of industry sponsorship on biomedical research.  He has been principle investigator on several NSF (USA) and ARC grants. 

His current major project concerns obesity research and public health policy in the 1950s USA.  He has just published a book on the history of genetic engineering with Johns Hopkins, entitled _Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise__.  .

See staff webpage for more.



    • Rasmussen N, 2014, Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise, hardback (1st), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA,
    • Rasmussen N, 2008, On Speed The Many Lives of Amphetamine, Original, New York University Press, New York and London
    • Rasmussen N, (ed.), 2002, Metascience, Original, Springer
    • Rasmussen N, 1997, Picture Control: The Electron Microscope and the Transformation of Biology in America, 1940-1960, Original, Stanford University Press, Stanford

    Book Chapters

    • Rasmussen N, 2012, 'Goofball Panic: Barbiturates, "Dangerous" and Addictive Drugs, and the Regulation of Medicine in Postwar America', in Greene J; Watkins ES (ed.), Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America, edn. Original, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp. 23 - 45
    • Rasmussen N, 2008, 'Amphetamine Epidemics, International', in Kranzler HR; Korsmeyer P (ed.), Encyclopedia of drugs, alcohol & addictive behavior, edn. third, Gale Cengage, pp. 153 - 162
    • Rasmussen N, 2003, 'Molecular Biology', in Dictionary of American History Third Edition, edn. Original, Charles Scribner`s Sons, New York
    • Rasmussen N, 2002, 'Innovation in Chemical Separation and Detection Instruments: Reflections on the Role of Research-technology in the History of Science', in Morris P (ed.), From Classical to Modern Chemistry: The Instrumental Revolution, edn. 1st, Royal Society of Chemistry, London, pp. 251 - 258
    • Rasmussen N, 2001, 'Biotechnology before the `Biotech revolution`: life scientists, chemists and product development in 1930s-1940s America', in Reinhardt C (ed.), Chemical Sciences in the 20th Century, edn. Original, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, pp. 201 - 227
    • Rasmussen N; Chalmers A, 2001, 'The role of theory in the use of instruments; or, how much do we need to know about electrons to do science with an election microscope?', in Buchwald JZ; Warwick A (ed.), Histories of the electron: the birth of microphysics, edn. Original, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 467 - 502

    Journal articles

    • Rasmussen N; Keizers PHJ, 2016, 'History full circle: 'Novel' sympathomimetics in supplements', Drug Testing and Analysis, vol. 8, pp. 283 - 286,
    • Rasmussen N, 2015, 'Amphetamine-type stimulants: The early history of their medical and non-medical uses', International Review of Neurobiology, vol. 120, pp. 9 - 25,
    • Rasmussen N, 2015, 'Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: The Early History of Their Medical and Nonmedical Uses', International Review of Neurobiology,
    • Rasmussen N, 2015, 'Stigma and the addiction paradigm for obesity: Lessons from 1950s America', Addiction, vol. 110, pp. 217 - 225,
    • Rasmussen N, 2014, 'Psychostimulanzien steigern nicht die kognitive Leistung. Lehren aus der Geschichte.', WestEnd, vol. 2014, pp. 69 - 80,
    • Rasmussen N, 2012, 'Weight stigma, addiction, science, and the medication of fatness in mid-twentieth century America', Sociology of Health and Illness, vol. 34, pp. 880 - 895,
    • Parr J; Rasmussen N, 2012, 'Making Addicts of the Fat: Obesity, Psychiatry and the ‘Fatties Anonymous’ Model of Self-Help Weight Loss in the Post-War United States', Advances in Medical Sociology, vol. 14, pp. 181 - 200,
    • Rasmussen N, 2011, 'Medical science and the military: The Allies' use of amphetamine during World War II', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 42, pp. 205 - 233,
    • Rasmussen N, 2010, 'Maurice Seevers, the stimulants and the political economy of addiction in American biomedicine', Biosocieties: An interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Studies of Life Science, vol. 5, pp. 105 - 123,
    • Rasmussen N; Lee K; Bero L, 2009, 'Association of trial registration with the results and conclusions of published trials of new oncology drugs', Trials, vol. 10,
    • Rasmussen N, 2008, 'The medium is the message', Metascience, vol. 17, pp. 293 - 296,
    • Rasmussen N, 2008, 'The Medium Is The Message', Metascience, pp. 1 - 4,
    • Rasmussen N, 2008, 'America's first amphetamine epidemic 1929-1971: A quantitative and qualitative retrospective with implications for the present', American Journal of Public Health, vol. 98, pp. 974 - 985,
    • Rasmussen N, 2006, 'Lives of a blockbuster drug', Minerva, vol. 44, pp. 229 - 234,
    • Rasmussen N, 2006, 'Making the first anti-depressant: Amphetamine in American medicine, 1929-1950', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 61, pp. 288 - 323,
    • Rasmussen N, 2005, 'The drug industry and clinical research in interwar America: Three types of physician collaborator', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 79, pp. 50 - 80
    • Rasmussen N, 2004, 'The moral economy of the drug company-medical scientist collaboration in interwar America', Social Studies of Science, vol. 34, pp. 161 - 185,
    • Rasmussen N, 2002, 'Of 'small men', big science and bigger business: The second world war and biomedical research in the United States', Minerva, vol. 40, pp. 115 - 146,
    • Rasmussen N, 2002, 'Steroids in arms: Science, government, industry, and the hormones of the adrenal cortex in the United States, 1930-1950', Medical History, vol. 46, pp. 299 - 324
    • Rasmussen N, 2001, 'Plant hormones in war and peace. Science, industry, and government in the development of herbicides in 1940s America.', Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences, vol. 92, pp. 291 - 316
    • Rasmussen N, 2001, 'Evolving scientific epistemologies and the artifacts of empirical philosophy of science: a reply concerning mesosomes', Biology and Philosophy, vol. 16, pp. 629 - 654
    • Rasmussen N, 1999, 'What moves when technologies migrate? "Software" and hardware in the transfer of biological electron microscopy to postwar Australia', Technology and Culture, vol. 40, pp. 47 - 73
    • Rasmussen N, 1999, 'Mapping the cell: Advent of the thin section and characterization of the ER', Nature Cell Biology, vol. 1, pp. E99 - E101,
    • Rasmussen N, 1999, 'Mapping the cell: advent of the thin section and characterization of the Endoplasmic Reticulum', Nature Cell Biology, vol. 1, pp. E99 - E101
    • Rasmussen N, 1999, 'The forgotten promise of thiamin: Merck, Caltech biologists, and plant hormones in a 1930s biotechnology project', Journal of the History of Biology, pp. 245 - 261
    • Rasmussen N, 1997, 'The mid-century biophysics bubble: Hiroshima and the biological revolution in America, revisited', History of Science, vol. 35, pp. 245 - 293,


Current and recent courses taught:

ARTS2303: On Drugs: Medicine, Science and Industry since 1900

ARTS3270: History Capstone

ARTS3242: Environmental History 

Life Science in the 20th Century: The Molecular Revolution (not currently taught)
Agriculture and Civilisation in Environmental Perspective (not currently taught)

Honours and prizes

Residential Fellowship, Center for Advanced Studies in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, autumn 2015

“Highly Commended”, British Medical Association Book Awards, for Gene Jockeys, 2015

Australian Research Council “Discovery Project” Large (sole PI) Grant for research on history of obesity, heart disease research, and public health policy in early Cold War USA (A$180,000), 2014-16

Countway Library Fellowship in History of Medicine, Harvard and Boston Medical Library, 2013-14

Australian Research Council “Discovery Project” Large (sole PI) Grant for research on history of biotechnology policy and rDNA drug development in 1970s-80s USA (A$165,000), 2009–12

2008 Stanley Jackson Prize for best article published in the Journal of the History of Medicine in a three year interval, for “Making the First Antidepressant"

2007 J. Worth Estes Prize for best scholarly article on history of drugs or pharmacology, American Association for the History of Medicine, for “Making the First Antidepressant”

Australian Research Council “Discovery Project” Large Grant (as sole PI) for research on history of pharmaceutical development in early and mid-20th C USA (A$132,000), 2004–06

Senior Visiting Fellowship, MIT-Dibner Institute for History of Science and Technology, winter 2004

2000 Book Prize, History of Science Society, Forum for the History of Science in America, for best book on the history of American science by a junior author, for Picture Control.

1999 Paul Bunge Prize for best work on history of scientific instruments (awarded by the German Chemical Society on behalf of the Hans Jenemann Foundation), for Picture Control.

National Science Foundation (USA) senior research grant (as independent scholar, and sole PI) for research on history of plant physiology in early and mid-20th C USA (US$56,000), 1998

Senior Visiting Fellowship, MIT-Dibner Institute for History of Science and Technology, autumn 1998

Related links

Home Page with bibilography and links to On Speed, Gene Jockeys, and other publications

Other information

NO RELATION to the Danish football striker, French Jazz musician, or Scientologist of the same name