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DR Helen MacDonald


  • Cultural histories of organ transplantation, human dissection, autopsies and the collection of body parts for museums; the cultural history of death.



  • Profile

    Helen MacDonald is a Senior Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. She explores the cultural histories of body acquisition and use for transplants, dissections, post-mortem examinations, and museums.

    Helen is presently investigating the modern era of organ grafting as it was performed in England and Scotland between 1950 and 1990. Articles from this project published in international journals include: ‘Crossing the Rubicon: Death in “The Year of the Transplant”’ (Medical History, 2017); ‘Guarding the Public Interest: England’s Coroners and Organ Transplants, 1960-1975’ (Journal of British Studies, 2015); ‘Conscripting Organs: “Routine Salvaging” or Bequest? The Historical Debate in Britain, 1961-75’ (Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 2015); and ‘Considering Death: The Third British Heart Transplant, 1969’ (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2014).

    Helen is the author of the award-winning book Human Remains: Dissection and its Histories (Yale University Press, 2006) and Possessing the Dead: The Artful Science of Anatomy (Melbourne University Press, 2010). She is currently editing A Cultural History of Death in the Age of Empire, one of a six-volume series on the history of death from antiquity to the present and contracted to Bloomsbury, London (General Editor Professor Douglas Davies, Durham University). Helen is also writing a new book which examines transplantation’s experimental years.   


Member of

  • Australian Historical Association. Member 2012 -
  • Advisory Board, Writing Centre for Scholars and Researchers. Member, Advisory Board 2005 -
  • Editorial Board, Australian Historical Studies. Member, Editorial Board 2013 - 2016


Selected publications



Education and training

  • PhD, University of Melbourne 2003
  • MA(hons), University of Melbourne 1998
  • BA(hons), Monash University 1992

Awards and honors

  • Victorian Premier's Literary Award for a First Book of History, State Library of Victoria, 2006
  • Ernest Scott Prize, Shortlist, Australian Historical Association, 2006
  • Max Kelly Medal, History Council of New South Wales, 2005



Available for supervision

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