Researchers at UCD


Laura Kelly

Occasional Lecturer

School Of History & Archives
Newman Building
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 1 7168185


I am an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (2012-2014). The project I am undertaking during this fellowship is entitled 'Merry boys and winsome women: Education, experiences and the shaping of the professional identity of Irish medical students, c.1800-1950'. 
Prior to joining UCD, I graduated with a B.A. degree in English and History from NUI Galway (2006) and an M.Litt in the history of medicine from the University of Glasgow (2007). I returned to NUI Galway for my doctoral research (2007-2010). My thesis, entitled 'Irish Medical Women, c.1880s-1920s: the origins, education and careers of early women medical graduates from Irish institutions' was the first comprehensive history of Irish women in medicine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My monograph Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers was published by Manchester University Press in February 2013. I was a lecturer in history at the Department of History, NUI Galway from 2011-2012. 

My main area of research is the social history of medicine in nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland with particular interests in gender and medicine, the history of medical education, medical students and the medical profession.  

In February 2015, I will be taking up an appointment as Lecturer in the History of Health and Medicine at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  


Honours and Awards

Year: 2014.
Title: Wellcome Trust Meeting Award
Year: 2014.
Title: New foundations grant
Year: 2013.
Title: Wellcome Trust Research Expenses Grant
Year: 2012.
Title: Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship
Year: 2012.
Title: Anna Parnell travel prize
Year: 2012.
Title: IRCHSS New Ideas conference grant
Year: 2011.
Title: American Association for the History of Medicine Travel Grant
Year: 2010.
Title: Wellcome Trust Workshop Grant
Year: 2009.
Title: Winner of the inaugural Irish history of medicine essay prize
Year: 2008.
Title: NUI Galway Arts Faculty travel grant
Year: 2008.
Title: Butler Eyles Travel Grant
Year: 2008.
Title: IRCHSS Doctoral studentship
Year: 2008.
Title: Wellcome Trust Research Expenses Grant
Year: 2007.
Title: NUI Galway Arts Faculty Postgraduate Fellowship
Year: 2006.
Title: Wellcome Trust Masters Studentship


Committee : Irish Network for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine
Committee : Women's History Association of Ireland

Outreach Activities

I am the editor of the History of Medicine in Ireland blog which is a collaboration between the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland. It aims to promote research in the medical humanities in Ireland. Link:



Kelly, Laura (2012) Irish women in medicine c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers. Manchester: Manchester University Press. [Details]

Book Chapters

Kelly, Laura (2013) 'Rickets and Irish Children: Dr Ella Webb and the early years of the Children's Sunshine Home, c.1924-1949' In: Maclellan, Anne and Mauger, Alice (eds). Growing pains: childhood illness in Ireland 1750-1950. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. [Details]
Kelly, Laura (2009) 'Dame Anne Louise McIlroy; Britain's first female professor of medicine' In: Kelly, Laura (eds). Mulvihill, Mary, (ed.) Lab Coats and Lace: The lives and legacies of inspiring Irish women scientists and pioneers. Dublin: WITS. [Details]

Edited Books

Rebecca Anne Barr, Sarah-Anne Buckley, Laura Kelly (Ed.). (2015) Engendering Ireland: new reflections on modern history and literature. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

Kelly, Laura (2013) ''The turning point in the whole struggle': the admission of women to the Irish College of Physicians'. Women's History Review, . [Details]
Kelly, Laura (2012) 'Migration and medical education: Irish medical students at the University of Glasgow, 1859-1900'. Irish Economic and Social History, . [Details]
Kelly, Laura (2011) 'Anatomy dissections and student experience at Irish universities c.1900-1960'. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences, . [Details]
Kelly, Laura (2010) 'Fascinating scalpel-wielders and fair dissectors: Women's experience of Irish medical education, c.1880s-1920s'. Medical History, . [Details]


Research Interests

I am primarily interested in the social history of medicine, gender and medicine, the medical profession, medical education and student culture in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ireland.

Current research: 'Merry boys and winsome women': Education, experiences and the shaping of the professional identity of Irish medical students, c.1800-1950 

My current research project, funded by the Irish Research Council, examines the educational and extra-curricular experiences of medical students at Irish medical schools in the modern period. The aim of my study is to examine the history of medical education in Ireland from the student's view. My research project examines three key areas:

* In the first part of my project, I explore what was considered to be a 'good' medical student in the period, assessing the changing image of the Irish medical student and the role of medical schools in shaping respectable doctors. I also examine the backgrounds of a sample of medical students matriculating at the different Irish universities in the period and the reasons underpinning men and women's decisions to study medicine. 

* The second part of the project examines the educational experiences of medical students, illustrating how in the Irish context, these were shaped by the economies of medical schools, gender, religion and regional differences. I am also investigating Irish medical students' clinical experiences and how hospital-based education developed between the nineteenth and twentieth century.

* I am particularly interested in medical student life and culture in Ireland. Drawing on a range of sources such as student magazines, oral history interviews, and the records of student societies and sports clubs, I am exploring the lives of medical students outside university, investigating their involvement in sport and student societies as well as in more rowdy activities such as pranks and rags. Such activities bonded students together while shared social experiences also helped to cement professional identity.

Research Projects

Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : Medical training, student experience and the transmission of knowledge, c.1800-2014
Start Date / End Date : 30-SEP-14 / 30-DEC-14
Sponsor : Irish Research Council (IRC)
Title : Medical education, experience and student life c.1800-2014: new foundations and global perspectives
Start Date / End Date : 15-MAR-14 / 15-DEC-14
Sponsor : The Wellcome Trust (WT)
Title : 'An 'awfully ignorant mob' or 'embryo doctors'?: Dissecting medical student culture and the shaping of professional identity in Ireland, c.1800-1950
Start Date / End Date : 28-APR-13 / 31-MAY-13



Modules Coordinated

201400   HIS31460     History: Medicine, Culture and Society
201400   HIS40760     History: Approaches to Medical History


Internal Collaborators

Dr Catherine Cox, Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, UCD, is my postdoctoral research mentor.