Carolyn Roberts

Carolyn Roberts's picture
Assistant Professor, History of Science & History of Medicine; African American Studies
On leave: Fall 2020 through Spring 2021
Rm 303--81 Wall St., New Haven, CT 06511-6606


Dr. Carolyn E. Roberts is an historian of medicine and science at Yale University.  She holds a joint appointment in the departments of History/History of Science and Medicine, and African American Studies.  She also holds a secondary appointment at Yale School of Medicine in the Program in the History of Medicine.  Her research interests concern the relationship between race and medicine which she explores by way of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade, natural history and botany, and African-descended knowledge in the Atlantic world.

Dr. Roberts is currently working on a book manuscript, which us under contract with Harvard University Press, called To Heal and To Harm: Medicine, Knowledge, and Power in the British Slave Trade.  The book traces the troubling relationship between the British slave trade and the development of modern medicine.  Roberts uncovers the stories of doctors, patients, apothecaries, and early pharmaceutical companies involved in this brutal form of human commerce.  The book vividly demonstrates how the seeds of ‘Big Pharma,’ new power dynamics in the doctor-patient relationship, and racial bias in medical care have roots in the Atlantic slave trade. 

As an award-winning educator, Dr. Roberts teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of race, science, and medicine from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries.  Her teaching blends history with medical sociology and public health to explore present-day crises of race and health.  

Dr. Roberts is also a popular workshop leader and speaker, nationally and internationally.  She brings critical historical perspectives to issues of racism, diversity, equity and inclusion in science, medicine, and public health.  Dr. Roberts has worked with a variety of companies, non-profit organizations, and institutions including PBS/NOVA, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Mt. Sinai Morningside, and many colleges and universities.  Her media appearances include the PBS/NOVA documentary The Violence Paradox and CNN.

Dr. Roberts received an M.A. and PhD from Harvard University, an M.A. from Andover Newton Theological School, and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.

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