The National History Center of the American Historical Association provides a venue in the nation's capital for all who care about the human past to make history an essential part of public conversations about current events and the shared futures of the United States and the wider world.

NHC Congressional Briefing
Vaccine Development: Historical Perspectives

As everyone knows, Covid-19 has struck millions, paralyzed economies, and upended the lives of countless people around the globe.  The race for a vaccine is on, absorbing vast sums of public and private funding and the energies of a vast number of scientists.  The current search for a medical solution to Covid-19 is a constant on cable television, the internet, and daily newspapers.  This National History Center Congressional Briefing steps back from the current moment to offer reflections on the history and usage of vaccines in the past century.

Click here to watch the briefing.


Theresa MacPhail is an assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. She received her BA in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire, an MA in Social Sciences and Humanities at New York University, and a PhD in medical anthropology from the University of California – Berkeley. Her research centers on the culture of public health, the production of scientific knowledge, networks of expertise, information sharing, and everyday lived experiences of epidemiologists, microbiologists, biomedical scientists, and medical practitioners. She is the author of The Viral Network: A Pathography of the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, published by Cornell University Press in 2014, and a medical thriller entitled The Eye of the Virus.  She is currently researching the rise of allergies in the United States and China.

Thomas Ewing is a professor of history at Virginia Tech and the associate dean for graduate studies and research at the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He is the author of The Teachers of Stalinism: Policy, Practice, and Power in Soviet Schools in the 1930s (2002) and co-editor of Viral Networks: Connecting Digital Humanities and Medical History (2018). He is currently researching the so-called “Russian Influenza” (1889-1890), coordinates the Data in Social Context program at Virginia Tech which sustains an interdisciplinary approach of data analytics, computational skills, and critical thinking in the humanities and social sciences, and has run NEH-funded workshops on the 1918 Spanish Influenza and on Images and Texts in Medical history.


Katrin Schultheiss is an associate professor and chair of the Department of History at The George Washington Universality. A medical and modern European historian, she is the author of Bodies and Souls: Politics and the Professionalization of Nursing in France, 1880-1922 (Harvard University Press) and is currently writing cultural and intellectual study of the 19th century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.