Professor Ulf Schmidt is the Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine, Ethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Kent, and principal investigator of the Porton Down Project on the history of chemical warfare research during the Cold War. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and was previously Wellcome Trust Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, and Senior Associate Member of St Antony's College, Oxford University.
Ulf's work has looked at the history of European eugenics and racial hygiene, especially in relation to Germany and Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the history of the Nazi 'euthanasia' programme, the killing of mentally and handicapped patients during the Third Reich. He has published widely on the history of medicine during the Third Reich, the history of human experimentation, the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial and the Nuremberg Code, and the history of medical film and propaganda.
Ulf's work is embedded in the historiographical tradition of social and political historians, historians of medicine and medical humanities as well as scholars of cultural history and history of science.
Published in 2004, Justice at Nuremberg uses hitherto unpublished archival sources and newly discovered diaries. The book looks at the role of Allied war crimes investigators such as Leo Alexander in the context of the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial which prosecuted German doctors for their involvement in medical atrocities.
In two jointly edited volumes on the history and theory of human experimentation, published in 2007, he and Andreas Frewer also examined the origins and influence of the Declaration of Helsinki in an international context. A multi-authored edited volume on “Ethical Research: The Declaration of Helsinki—Past, Present and Future of Human Experimentation” is currently in preparation with Oxford University Press.
In 2007, Ulf published Karl Brandt. The Nazi Doctor. Medicine and Power in the Third Reich, the first full-scale biography of Hitler's doctor, one of the most powerful figures of the Third Reich. In this biography, Ulf explored in detail that Brandt belonged to a generation of a young “expert elite”, who in the 1930s and 1940s were willing, and empowered, to support and conceive an oppressive, militarist, and racist government policy, and ultimately turn its exterminatory potential into reality.
In 2015, he published Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments. The book traces, for the first time, the history of chemical and biological weapons research by the former Allied powers, particularly in Britain, the United States and Canada. It charts the ethical trajectory and culture of military science, from its initial development in response to Germany’s first use of chemical weapons in the First World War to the ongoing attempts by the international community to ban these types of weapons once and for all.
In 2004 Ulf was appointed by HM Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon as one of the principal expert witnesses on informed consent in the inquest into the death of Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, a British serviceman, who died after being exposed to the nerve agent sarin in 1953.
In 2007 Ulf was part of an expert team to mediate between the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Porton Down Veterans Support Group (PDVSG) to create a compensation scheme for human experiments conducted on UK soldiers during the 20th century. In January 2008, the UK government announced a comprehensive compensation scheme for the veterans.
Since 2017, Ulf has been an ongoing participant in debates about the role of academia and the public sphere in the control of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) and has spoken numerous times to the Conference of State Parties at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. He is co-chair of the annual Kent Forum for CBW control and prevention, an organisation dedicated to bringing together experts in the field and academic subject specialists to inform public debate and policy decision-making.
Together with the Irish photographer Dara McGrath, Ulf is the organiser of the national travelling exhibition 'This Poisoned Isle'. The exhibition explores landscapes that were once at the heart of Britain's chemical warfare programme. For further information see https://poisoned-isle.com/
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