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Carolyn Roberts    

Assistant Professor in History of Science & History of Medicine; African American Studies Professor at Yale University

Dr. Carolyn Roberts is an historian of medicine and science at Yale University. She holds a joint appointment in the departments of History/History of Science and Medicine, and African American Studies. She also holds a secondary appointment at Yale School of Medicine in the Program in the History of Medicine. Her research interests concern the history of race, science, and medicine in the context of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. This includes attention to the critical role played by African and African-descended medical and health knowledge in the Atlantic world.

Dr. Roberts is currently working on several book manuscripts, including To Heal and To Harm: Medicine, Knowledge, and Power in the British Slave Trade, which is under contract with Harvard University Press. The book traces the troubling relationship between the British slave trade and the development of modern medicine. Roberts uncovers the stories of doctors, patients, apothecaries, and early pharmaceutical companies involved in this brutal form of human commerce. The book vividly demonstrates how the seeds of ‘Big Pharma,’ new power dynamics in the doctor-patient relationship, and racial bias in medical care have roots in the slave trade.

Dr. Roberts is an award-winning educator. She is the 2021 recipient of Yale’s prestigious Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. Dr. Roberts teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of race, science, and medicine from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Her teaching blends history with medical sociology and public health to explore present-day crises related to race, racism, and health.

Dr. Roberts is also a popular workshop leader and speaker. She brings critical historical perspectives to anti-racism interventions in science, medicine, and public health. Dr. Roberts has contributed to institutional efforts to diversify STEM, including anti-racist pedagogy and curricula. Dr. Roberts has worked with a variety of corporations, non-profit organizations, and institutions including PBS/NOVA, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Mt. Sinai Morningside, and several colleges and universities. Her media appearances include the PBS/NOVA documentary The Violence Paradox and CNN.

Dr. Roberts received an M.A. and PhD from Harvard University, an M.A. from Andover Newton Theological School, and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.

Dr. Roberts is also the 2023 recipient of the DeVane Medal, Yale's oldest teaching award, elected by undergraduate members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Speech Topics

Sickness and Health

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