School of Social and Political Science

Lukas Engelmann

Job Title

Chancellor's Fellow, Senior Lecturer - History and Sociology of Biomedicine

Head shot of Lukas Engelmann

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Building (Address)

Old Surgeons' Hall

Street (Address)

High School Yards

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I am a historian of medicine and epidemiology. My research covers histories of epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and the third plague pandemic (1890-1950), the history of epidemiological reasoning as well as the digital transformation of public health in the present. From January 2021 to December 2025, my work on the history of epidemiological reasoning is funded by an ERC Starting Grant. The project website can be found here.

I am a member of the Wellcome-funded Centre for Biomedicine, Self & Society and member of the executive committee of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases

I received my PhD in History at the Humboldt University in Berlin before I took up a position as post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for the History of Medicine in Zurich in 2013. My doctoral research focused on the visual medical history of AIDS/HIV, which led to my first book, Mapping AIDS, published with Cambridge University Press in 2018.

In 2014, I joined Christos Lynteris' ERC project at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, to study the visual history of the Third Plague Pandemic (1890 to 1950) in North and South America. I focused on plague mapping, the history of medical photography, medical geography, and the plague-driven enforcement of bacteriological expertise in public health.

From archival findings emerged a collaborative project with Christos Lynteris on Sulphuric Utopiaspublished open access with MIT Press in March 2020. Our book concerns the technological history of fumigation and the political history of maritime sanitation at the turn of the twentieth century. It has recently been listed as one of 30 books to understand the World in 2020 in the Guardian

Research interests

Research interests

Ongoing Research

The Epidemy

The Epidemiological Revolution. A History of Epidemiological Reasoning in the Twentieth Century.

(ERC Starting Grant, January 2021 - December 2025)

Project Website: The Epidemy / Twitter: EpidemyERC

Epidemiology has historically been a niche field in the medical sciences, often side-lined by laboratory scientists and clinicians as a weak and inferior science. However, over the twentieth century, the field and its experts have gained unprecedented authority and influence. Epidemiologists have won the trust of policy makers and the general public to define public health crises, such as infectious diseases, chronic conditions and 'unhealthy' lifestyles. I seek to understand how epidemiologists have built their arguments, how they define epidemics and what makes this kind of reasoning unique. The project’s focus will be on the history of three elements of ‘epidemiological reasoning.’ First, epidemiologists have built models to simulate epidemics, which now have powerful influences on decision making in public and global health, as recently demonstrated in Covid-19. Second, epidemiologists brought together scattered information from different sources to combine and compare data. Third, the field required interdisciplinary expertise from different fields to establish its strong generalist tradition.

Digital Epidemiology

With the Chancellor's Fellowship I work on the Long History of Digital Epidemiology. The project illuminates historical developments in biomedicine and epidemiology that led to the emergence of an epidemiological reasoning based on data and models, rather than doctors’ diagnoses and the mere counting of cases. With my Chancellor's Fellowship I show what influence practices of abstraction and formalization in the history of epidemiology had on today’s digital health landscape and ask how epidemiological reasoning assumed the overwhelming authority, with which it renders economic and political concerns obsolete in times of pandemic crisis (cf. COVID-19). 

Completed Projects

I have developed a pilot study with Bea Alex, funded by the Challenge Investment Funds (UoE), to evaluate pathways for Text-Mining Outbreak Reports of the Third Plague Pandemic

Other Research Activities

I am collaborating on a project funded by the Australian Research Council and led by Niamh Stephenson (University of NSW), "Realising big data’s potential to address social and health inequities."

Topics interested in supervising

History and Sociology of Biomedicine

History of Epidemics and Epidemiology

Social and cultural dimensions of Plague, AIDS, Zika, AMR and Covid-19

History of Sexuality

Medicine and Theory

If you are interested in being supervised by Lukas Engelmann, please see the links below for more information:

Staff Hours and Guidance

By appointment only

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Engelmann L. Diseased States: Epidemic Control in Britain and the United States by Charles Allan McCoy. Social History of Medicine. 2021 Feb 18. hkab022.
Engelmann L. An epidemic for sale. Observation, modification and commercial circulation of the Danysz Virus, 1890 – 1910. Isis. 2020 Nov 6.
Ganguli-Mitra A, Young I, Engelmann L, Harper I, McCormack D, Marsland R et al. Segmenting communities as public health strategy: A view from the social sciences and humanities. Wellcome Open Research . 2020 May 26.
Engelmann L. A plague of Kinyounism: The caricatures of bacteriology in 1900 San Francisco . Social History of Medicine. 2020 May;33(2):489-514.
Montgomery C, Engelmann L. Epidemiological Publics? On the Domestication of Modelling in the era of COVID-19. 2020.
Engelmann L. #COVID19: The spectacle of real-time surveillance. Somatosphere. 2020 Mar 6.
Engelmann L. Configurations of plague: Spatial diagrams in early epidemiology. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice. 2019 Dec 1;63(4):89-109.
Engelmann L, Humphrey C, Lynteris C. Afterword: The work of diagrams. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice. 2019 Dec 1;63(4):149-151.
Engelmann L, Humphrey C, Lynteris C. Introduction: Diagrams beyond mere tools. Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice. 2019 Dec 1.
Engelmann L. Picturing the unusual: Uncertainty in the historiography of medical photography. Social History of Medicine. 2019 Nov 18. hkz108.
Pickersgill M, Cunningham-burley S, Engelmann L, Ganguli-mitra A, Hewer R, Young I. Challenging social structures and changing research cultures. The Lancet. 2019 Nov 7;394(10210):1693-1695.
Engelmann L, Lynteris C. Sulphuric utopias. A history of maritime fumigation. MIT Press, 2019.
Casey A, Bennett M, Tobin R, Grover C, Engelmann L, Alex B. Plague Dot Text: Text mining and annotation of outbreak reports of the Third Plague Pandemic (1894-1952). In Wevers M, Hasanuzzaman M, Dias G, Düring M, Jatowt A, editors, HistoInformatics 2019: International Workshop on Computational History 2019. Vol. 2461. CEUR Workshop Proceedings. 2019. p. 50-59. (CEUR Workshop Proceedings).
Lee F, Bier J, Christensen J, Engelmann L, Helgesson C-F, Williams R. Algorithms as folding: Reframing the analytical focus. Big Data and Society. 2019 Aug 2;6(2):1-12.
Engelmann L. [Review of] Finkelstein, Avram: After Silence. A History of AIDS Through Its Images. Oakland (California), University of California Press, 2017. 272 p. Ill. $ 27.95. ISBN 9780520295148 (e-book: 9780520968028). Gesnerus. 2019 Jul 22;76(1):125-126.
Engelmann L. Mapping AIDS: Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 266 p. (Global Health Histories).
Engelmann L. Fumigating the hygienic model city: Bubonic plague and the Sulfurozador in early-twentieth-century Buenos Aires. Medical History. 2018 Jul;62(3):360-382.
Mittelstadt B, Benzler J, Engelmann L, Prainsack B, Vayena E. Is there a duty to participate in digital epidemiology? Life Sciences, Society and Policy. 2018 May 9;14(9).
Engelmann L. The burial pit as bio-historical archive. In Lynteris C, Evans N, editors, Histories of Post-Mortem Contagion: Infectious Corpses and Contested Burials. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2017. p. 189-211
Engelmann L. Guenter B. Risse, Driven by Fear: Epidemics and Isolation in San Francisco’s House of Pestilence. Social History of Medicine. 2017 Aug 1;30(3):697-698.
Engelmann L. In and out of death’s shadow; the history and future of AIDS. Tls-The Times Literary Supplement. 2017 Aug 1.
Engelmann L. The Past and Present of Contested Medical Authority. Science as Culture. 2017 Jul 1;26(3):424-429.
Engelmann L (Author). What are Medical Photographs of Plague? REMEDIA. 2017.
Engelmann L. The AIDS Atlas. In Tuin IVD, editor, Gender: Nature.. 1 ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. 2016. p. 151-164. (Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender.).
Engelmann L. Photographing AIDS: On capturing a disease in pictures of people with AIDS. Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 2016 Mar 21;90(2):250-278.
Engelmann L, Köppert K, Oloff A, Speck S. Perspektiven auf aktuelle und historische Fundamentalismen: Internationale Konferenz Fundamentalism and Gender: Scripture, Body, Community, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2. – 4. 12. 2010. Feministische Studien. 2016 Mar 10;29(2):350-354.
Poleykett B (Author), Evans NHA (Author), Engelmann L (Author). Fragments of Plague Limn. 2016.
Engelmann L (Author). Bacteriology as conspiracy Open Democracy. 2015.
Engelmann L, Kehr J. Double trouble? Towards an epistemology of co-infection. Medicine Anthropology Theory. 2015 Apr 14;2(1):1-31.
Engelmann L. Homosexualitaet und AIDS. In Mildenberger F, Evans J, Lautmann R, Pastötter J, editors, Was ist Homosexualität?: Forschungsgeschichte, gesellschaftliche Entwicklungen und Perspektiven. Männerschwarm Verlag GmbH. 2014
Fitsch H, Engelmann L. Das Bild als Phänomen. Visuelle Argumentationsweisen und ihre Logiken am Beispiel von Sichtbarmachungen des ,AIDS-Virus' und der funktionellen MRT. In Lucht P, Schmidt L-M, Tuma R, editors, Visuelles Wissen und Bilder des Sozialen. : Aktuelle Entwicklungen in der Soziologie des Visuellen. 1 ed. Wiesbaden: Springer-Verlag. 2013. p. 213-230
Engelmann L. Krankheitsbild AIDS. Die Geschichte der Normalisierung einer Epidemie im Spiegel des AIDS-Atlas.. 2013.
Engelmann L. Ein queeres Bild von AIDS. HIV-Visualisierungen und queere Politiken des Vergessens. Feministische Studien. 2012 Nov 1;30(2):245-258.
Engelmann L. Übertragungsweg. In Marquardt N, Schreiber V, editors, Ortsregister. Ein Glossar zu Räumen der Gegenwart. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. 2012. p. 287-292
Engelmann L. Eine analytische Bildpraxis. Die pathologisch-anatomischen Zeichnungen Jean Cruveilhiers in ihrem Verhältnis zu klinischen Beobachtungen. Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte. 2012 Mar 7;35(1):7-24.