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Department of History
Tufts University
East Hall, room 107
Medford, MA 02155

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Alisha Rankin
Associate Professor of History

History of Science and Medicine


I joined the Tufts history department in January 2008, after spending three years as a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. I received my Ph.D. in the History of Science from Harvard University in 2005 and my B.A. from Wellesley College in History and German Studies in 1996.

My broad research interests include early modern European history (c. 1450-1700), the history of science and medicine, and women's history. My first book, Panaceia's Daughters: Noblewomen as Healers in Early Modern Germany (University of Chicago Press, 2013) examines German princesses who became widely known and admired for their medical knowledge in the sixteenth century — and particularly for making medicinal cures. It won the 2014 Gerald Strauss Prize for Reformation History. I also co-edited a collection of essays titled Secrets and Knowledge in Medicine and Science, 1500-1800, which was published by Ashgate Press in 2011. In addition, I am working on a new book project with the working title The Poison Trials: Antidotes, Wonder Drugs, and the Problem of Proof in Early Modern Europe, which looks at the important role poison antidotes played in attempts to evaluate early modern cures. I am involved with the working group "Testing Drugs and Trying Cures in Early Modern Europe" at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and I co-organized (with Elaine Leong) a conference on the topic in June 2014. We just published a special journal issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (Summer, 2017) on the topic.

My courses cover my range of research interests. I have developed courses on Renaissance and Reformation Europe; gender and family; the history of science and medicine; and the history of the book. I teach a survey course called Science and Technology in World History as part of the IR Core, and I am core faculty in STS, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, IR, and Environmental Studies.


Early Modern Europe, the History of Science and Medicine, Women's History, the History of the Body and Sexuality


  • Visiting Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, July-August 2016
  • Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, Sept 2015- May 2016
  • Visiting Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, May-June 2014
  • Faculty Fellow, Center for the Humanities at Tufts, 2012-2013
  • Faculty Research Awards Committee Fellowship, Tufts University, 2010-2011
  • Junior Research Fellowship in History, Trinity College, Cambridge, 2004-2008
  • Dissertation Finishing Grant, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2004-2005
  • Dissertation Research Fellowship, American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 2003-2004
  • Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, 2002-2003
  • Wellesley College Eugene Cox Fellowship for Dissertation Research, 2002-2003
  • Fulbright Fellowship for the Study of History in Germany, 1996-1997


  • Gerald Strauss Book Prize for Reformation History, Sixteenth Century Studies Society and Conference, 2014
  • Shryock Medal, American Association for the History of Medicine, 2005
  • Bok Center Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Harvard University, 2002

Major Publications


Guest Editing:

  • "Testing Drugs and Trying Cures": Special issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 91 (Summer, 2017). Co-edited with Elaine Leong.

Selected Articles:

  • "On Anecdote and Antidotes: Poison Trials in Early Modern Europe." Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 91 (Summer 2017): 274-302.
  • "Testing Drugs and Trying Cures: Experiment and Medicine in Early Modern Europe," with Elaine Leong. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 91 (Summer 2017): 157-182.
  • "Exotic Materials and Treasured Knowledge: The Valuable Legacy of Noblewomen's Pharmacy in Early Modern Germany," Renaissance Studies, 28 (2014): 533-555.
  • "How to Cure the Golden Vein: Medical Remedies as Wissenschaft in Early Modern Germany," in Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, ed. Pamela H. Smith, Amy Meyers, and Harold Cook (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), 113-137.
  • "Women in Science and Medicine, 1400-1800." In The Ashgate Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, ed. Allyson Poska, Katherine McIver, and Jane Couchman. Ashgate Press, 2013.
  • "Empirics, Physicians, and Wonder Drugs in Early Modern Germany: The Case of the Panacea Amwaldina." Early Science and Medicine 14 (2009): 680-710.
  • "Experimente am Hof: Die pharmazeutische Praxis der Anna on Sachsen (1532-1585)." Sächsische Heimat Blätter 55:2 (2009): 155-163.
  • "The Housewife's Apothecary in Early Modern Austria: Wolfgang Helmhard von Hohberg's Georgica curiosa (1682)." Medicina & Storia, 15 (2008): 59-78.
  • "Duchess, Heal Thyself: Elisabeth of Rochlitz and the Patient's Perspective in Early Modern Germany." Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82 (2008): 109-144. Winner of the 2005 Richard Harrison Shryock medal for the best essay by a graduate student.
  • "Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532-85)." Isis: Journal of the History of Science Society 98 (2007): 23-53.