Portrait of Professor Ulf Schmidt

Professor Ulf Schmidt

Professor in Modern History
Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine, Ethics and Medical Humanities

About

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. 

Research interests

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Published in 2004, Justice at Nuremberg uses hitherto unpublished archival sources and newly discovered diaries.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.

Professional

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/

Publications

Book

  • Schmidt, U. (2015). Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments. [Online]. Oxford University Press. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199299799.do.
  • Schmidt, U. (2009). Hitlers Arzt Karl Brandt: Medizin und Macht im Dritten Reich. Aufbau Verlag.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). Karl Brandt, the Nazi Doctor: Medicine and Power in the Third Reich. London, UK: Continuum.
  • Schmidt, U. (2004). Justice at Nuremberg: Leo Alexander and the Nazi Doctors’ Trial. UK: Palgrave/Macmillan.
  • Schmidt, U. (2002). Medical Films, Ethics and Euthanasia in Germany, 1933-1945. Germany: Husum, Matthiesen.

Edited book

  • Schmidt, U. and Frewer, A. (2014). Forschung als Herausforderungen für Ethik und Menschenrechte. 50 Jahre Deklaration von Helsinki, 1964-2014. Schmidt, U. and Frewer, A. eds. Koln: Deutscher Ärzteverlag.
  • Schmidt, U. and Frewer, A. eds. (2007). History and Theory of Human Experimentation: The Declaration of Helsinki and Modern Medical Ethics. Stuttgard: Franz Steiner Verlag.
    Despite having been revised and criticised over the years, the Declaration of Helsinki remains one of the most important and internationally known ethics codes world-wide. Yet we know relatively little about its historical origins or about the prolonged revision process which accompanied this "living document". The chapters presented in this volume look at the history and theory of human experimentation, assess the role of the Declaration of Helsinki in an international context, and illustrate specific issues about the history and practice of research ethics through a number of case studies in the United States, Asia and Europe.

Article

  • Schmidt, U. (2013). Ohne Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben. Hitlers Arzt Karl Brandt. Damals [Online]:24-29. Available at: http://www.damals.de/de/16/Ohne-Ehrfurcht-vor-dem-Leben.html?issue=189357&aid=189838&cp=1&action=showDetails.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). Turning the history of medical ethics from its head onto its feet: A critical commentary on Baker and McCullough. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 17:31-42.
    The paper provides a critical commentary on the article by Baker and McCullough on Medical Ethic's Appropriation of Moral Philosophy. The author argues that Baker and McCullough offer a more "pragmatic" approach to the history of medical ethics that has the potential to enrich the bioethics field with a greater historical grounding and sound methodology. Their approach can help us to come to a more nuanced understanding about the way in which medical ethics has connected, disconnected, and reconnected with philosophical ideas throughout the centuries. The author points out that Baker and McCullough's model can run the danger of overemphasizing the role of medical ethicists whilst marginalizing the influence of philosophers and of other historical actors and forces. He critically reviews the two case studies on which Baker and McCullough focus and concludes that scholars need to bear in mind the levels of uncertainty and ambivalence that accompany the process of transformation and dissemination of moral values in medicine and medical practice.
  • Schmidt, U. (2006). Cold War at Porton Down: Informed Consent in Britain’s Biological and Chemical Warfare Experiments. Cambridge Quarterly for Healthcare Ethics [Online] 15:366-380. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0963180106060488.
    In 2004, the author was appointed historical expert to HM Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon in the Inquest looking into the death of Ronald George Maddison. Unless stated otherwise, the material presented derives from the "Exhibits" that were supplied to the interested parties and from the Inquest "Transcript."
  • Schmidt, U. (2005). The Scars of Ravensbrück: Medical Experiments and British War Crimes Policy, 1945-1950. German History 23:20-49.
  • Schmidt, U. (2002). Medicina e Nazismo. Sistema Salute 2:9-18.
  • Schmidt, U. et al. (2001). Zwangsarbeit und Medizin im “Dritten Reich". Deutsches Ärzteblatt [Online]:2866-2870. Available at: http://www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/29235/Geschichte-und-Ethik-der-Medizin-Zwangsarbeit-und-Medizin-im-Dritten-Reich.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Discussing Slave Labourers in Nazi Germany: Topography of Research or Politics of Memory? German History [Online] 19:408-417. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/026635501680193933.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Der medizinische Forschungsfilm im Dritten Reich: Seine Institutionalisierung, politische Funktion und ethische Dimension. Zeitgeschichte 4:200-214.
  • Schmidt, U. (1999). Reassessing the Beginning of the “'Euthanasia' Programme". German History [Online] 17:543-550. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/026635599676325736.
  • Schmidt, U. (1999). The History of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society During National Socialism. Observations on a Three-Day Working Conference organised by the Max Planck Society in Berlin, 10-13 March 1999. German History [Online] 17:551-557. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/026635599671032718.
  • Schmidt, U. (1997). German Medical War Crimes, Medical Ethics and Post-War Justice: A Symposium held at the University of Oxford to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Medical Trial, 14 March 1997. German History [Online] 15:385-391. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gh/15.3.385.
  • Schmidt, U. (1995). Der medizinische Film in der historischen Forschung. Mitteilungen aus dem Bundesarchiv 3:82-84.

Book section

  • Schmidt, U. (2017). Preparing for Poison Warfare: The Ethics and Politics of Britain’s Chemical Weapons Program, 1915–1945. in: One Hundred Years of Chemical Warfare: Research, Deployment, Consequences. Springer, pp. 77-104. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51664-6_6.
    Allied political and military leaders have frequently been credited both with considerable foresight and with strategic and moral leadership for avoiding chemical warfare during the Second World War. Scholars have not, however, fully acknowledged how close Allied forces came to launching a full-scale chemical onslaught in various theatres of war. The paper offers a thorough reconstruction of Allied chemical warfare planning which takes a close look at the development of Britain’s chemical weapons program since the First World War. The findings suggest that no “lack of preparedness,” as it existed in the initial stages of the conflict in 1939/1940, would have deterred the Allies from launching chemical warfare if the military situation had required it. Allied forces were planning to launch retaliatory chemical warfare ever since they had been attacked with chlorine gas in 1915. Just War theorists at first opposed the use of this new weapon and campaigned for an internationally enforced legal ban. The paper argues, however, that post-war military and political exigencies forced the advocates of the Just War tradition to construct new arguments and principles which would make this type of war morally and militarily acceptable. The paper explores the ways in which military strategists, scientists, and government officials attempted to justify the development, possession, and use of chemical weapons, and contextualizes Britain’s delicate balancing act between deterrence and disarmament in the interwar period.
  • Schmidt, U. (2015). Geschichte und Ethik in der DDR-Medizin. in: Medizinethik in der DDR. Moralische und menschenrechtliche Fragen im Gesundheitswesen. Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 205-211.
  • Schmidt, U. and Frewer, A. (2014). The Declaration of Helsinki as a Landmark for Research Ethics – Protecting Human Participants in Modern Medicine. in: The World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki, 1964-2014. 50 Years of Evolution of Medical Research Ethics. Koln: Deutscher Ärzteverlag, pp. 56-57.
  • Schmidt, U. and Wahl, M. (2014). Ärzte hinter dem Eisernen Vorhang: Medizinethische Diskurse und die Deklaration von Helsinki in der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1961-1989. in: Forschung als Herausforderungen für Ethik und Menschenrechte. 50 Jahre Deklaration von Helsinki, 1964-2014. Jahrbuch Medizinethik, pp. 71-86.
  • Schmidt, U. (2014). Karl Brandt, médecin de Hitler. in: Une médecine de mort. Du code de Nuremberg à l'éthique médicale contemporaine. Paris: Vendémiaire Éditions, pp. 55-68.
  • Schmidt, U. and Frewer, A. (2014). Geschichte und Ethik der Humanforschung. 50 Jahre Deklaration von Helsinki. Zur Einführung. in: Forschung als Herausforderungen für Ethik und Menschenrechte. 50 Jahre Deklaration von Helsinki, 1964-2014. Jahrbuch Medizinethik, pp. 9-13.
  • Schmidt, U. (2013). Accidents and Experiments: Nazi Chemical Warfare Research and Medical Ethics during the Second World War. in: Carrick, D. G. and Gross, M. L. eds. Military Medical Ethics for the 21st Century (Military and Defence Ethics). Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 225-244.
  • Schmidt, U. (2012). Reflections on the Origins of the Declaration of Helsinki. in: Jahrbuch Medizinethik. Deutscher Ärzte Verlag.
  • Schmidt, U. (2012). Justifying Chemical Warfare’. The Origins and Ethics of Britain’s Chemical Warfare Programme, 1915-1939. in: Welch, D. and Fox, J. eds. Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 129-158.
  • Schmidt, U. (2011). "Holding One's Breath": Reflections on the Origins of the Declaration of Helsinki. in: Die Deklaration von Helsinki: Revisionen und Kontroversen. Germany: Deutscher Ärzte Verlag, pp. 1-16.
  • Schmidt, U. (2011). "Holding Ones' Breath": Reflections on the Origins of the Declaration of Helsinki. in: Ehni, H. -J. and Wiesing, U. eds. Jahrbuch Medizinethik. Deutscher Ärzte Verlag, pp. 1-17.
  • Schmidt, U. (2009). Medical Ethics and Nazism. in: McCullough, L. B. and Baker, R. eds. The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 595-608.
  • Schmidt, U. (2008). The Scars of Ravensbrück: Medical Experiments and British War Crimes Policy, 1945-1950. in: Atrocities on Trial. Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Prosecuting German War Crimes. University of Nebraska Press, pp. 123-157.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics: Geschichte und Ethik des Ärzteprozesses. in: Standards der Forschung. Historische Entwicklung und ethische Grundlagen klinischer Studien. Peter Lang, pp. 37-73.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). The Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial and the Nuremberg Code. in: History and Theory of Human Experimentation. The Declaration of Helsinki and Modern Medical Ethics. Franz Steiner, pp. 71-116.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). Medical Ethics and Human Experimentation at Porton Down: Informed Consent in Britain’s Biological and Chemical Warfare Experiments. in: History and Theory of Human Experimentation. The Declaration of Helsinki and Modern Medical Ethics. Franz Steiner, pp. 283-313.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). Zur Medizinethik des Humanexperiments. Standards und Stand der Forschung. in: Standards der Forschung. Historische Entwicklung und ethische Grundlagen klinischer Studien. Peter Lang, pp. 7-16.
  • Schmidt, U. (2007). History and Ethics of Human Experimentation: The Twisted Road to Helsinki. in: History and Theory of Human Experimentation. The Declaration of Helsinki and Modern Medical Ethics. Franz Steiner, pp. 7-23.
  • Schmidt, U., Frewer, A. and Wolters, C. (2004). Hilfskräfte, Hausschwangere, Untersuchungsobjekte. Der Umgang mit Zwangsarbeitenden in der Universitätsfrauenklinik Göttingen. in: Medizin und Zwangsarbeit im Nationalsozialismus. Einsatz und Behandlung von “Ausländern” im Gesundheitswesen. Campus Verlag.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Der Ärzteprozeß als moralische Instanz? Der Nürnberger Kodex und das Problem “zeitloser Medizinethik”. in: Medizingeschichte und Medizinethik 1900 – 1950. Campus Fachbuch, pp. 334-373.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Die Angeklagten Fritz Fischer, Hans W. Romberg und Karl Brandt aus der Sicht des medizinischen Sachverständigen Leo Alexander. in: Vernichten und Heilen: Der Nürnberger Ärzteprozeß und seine Folgen. Berlin: Aufbau Tb, pp. 374-404.
  • Schmidt, U. (2000). “Der Blick auf den Körper”: Sozialhygienische Filme, Sexualaufklärung und Propaganda in der Weimarer Republik. in: Geschlecht in Fesseln. Sexualität zwischen Aufklärung und Ausbeutung im Weimarer Kino 1918 - 1933. Munich: Edition Text + Kritik, pp. 23-46.
  • Schmidt, U. (2000). Kriegsausbruch und “Euthanasie”: Neue Forschungsergebnisse zum “Knauer Kind“ im Jahre 1939. in: “Euthanasie” und die aktuelle Sterbehilfe-Debatte. Die historischen Hintergründe medizinischer Ethik. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag.
  • Schmidt, U. (2000). Sozialhygienische Filme und Propaganda in der Weimarer Republik. in: Gesundheitskommunikation. Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag, pp. 53-82.
  • Schmidt, U. and Heinz Roth, K. (1999). Origins and Consequences of the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial: Documents and Materials’, Fiche 285-320. in: The Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial 1946/47. Munich: Mikrofiche-Edition.

Review

  • Schmidt, U. (2014). Review of Pathogens for War. Biological Weapons, Canadian Life Scientists, and North American Biodefence. Donald Avery. Social History of Medicine 27:827-829.
  • Schmidt, U. (2003). Review of Science in the Third Reich. History 88:170-171.
  • Schmidt, U. (2003). Review of Die Institutionalisierung der Medizinhistoriographie: Entwicklungslinien vom 19. ins 20. Jahrhundert. Social History of Medicine:147-148.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Review of The Red Cross and the Holocaust. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 75:816-818.
  • Schmidt, U. (2001). Review of The Nazi War on Cancer. History 85:607-608.
  • Schmidt, U. (1998). Review of Anstaltsärzte zwischen Kaiserreich und Bundesrepublik (Kersting) and Psychiatrie und Gesellschaft in der Moderne. Social History of Medicine 11:336-337.
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