ARC DECRA Fellow, University of Sydney

Dr Peter Hobbins is a historian of science, technology and medicine at the University of Sydney. His published work has included histories of Australian medical research, venomous creatures in Australasia, quarantine and aviation medicine. Dr Hobbins is the author of two books, 'Venomous Encounters: Snakes, Vivisection and Scientific Medicine in Colonial Australia' (2017) and, with Dr Ursula K Frederick and Associate Professor Anne Clarke, 'Stories from the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia's Immigrant Past' (2016). His current postdoctoral research project explores aircraft crashes, aviation safety and airspace in twentieth-century Australia.


  • 2016–present
    ARC DECRA Fellow, Department of History, University of Sydney
  • 2016–2017
    Merewether Fellow, State Library of New South Wales
  • 2013–2016
    Research Associate, Department of History, University of Sydney
  • 2012–2012
    Associate Lecturer, Department of History, University of Sydney
  • 2011–2011
    Postgraduate Teaching Fellow, Department of History, University of Sydney
  • 2007–2010
    Freelance Medical Writer, Badger's Den
  • 2000–2006
    Director, Elixir Healthcare Education
  • 1999–2000
    Medical Writer, Alchemy Communications
  • 1997–1999
    Copywriter, Medicus
  • 1995–1997
    Senior Medical Writer, Oxford Clinical Communications


  • 2014 
    University of Sydney, Doctor of Philosophy (History)
  • 2009 
    University of Sydney, Master of Medical Humanities with Merit
  • 1995 
    University of Melbourne, Bachelor of Science with Honours (Pharmacology)
  • 1995 
    University of Melbourne, Bachelor of Arts (English Literature and History and Philosophy of Science)


  • 2017
    Venomous Encounters: Snakes, Vivisection and Scientific Medicine in Colonial Australia, Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • 2016
    From Camels to cats: experimenting with medicine in the Australian Flying Corps, War & Society 35, no. 2, pp. 114–31
  • 2016
    (with Anne Clarke and Ursula K Frederick) Sydney’s landscapes of quarantine, In Alison Bashford, ed., Quarantine: Local and Global Histories (Houndmills: Palgrave), pp. 175–94
  • 2016
    (with Ursula K Frederick and Anne Clarke) Stories From the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia’s Immigrant Past, Crows Nest: Arbon Publishing
  • 2016
    (with Alison Bashford, Anne Clarke and Ursula K Frederick) Geographies of commemoration: Angel Island, San Francisco and North Head, Sydney, Journal of Historical Geography 52, pp. 16–25
  • 2015
    A spur to atavism: placing platypus poison, Journal of the History of Biology 48, no. 4, pp. 499–537
  • 2015
    “No bloody research”: bringing science to military medicine, In Jacqueline Healy, ed., Compassion and Courage: Australian Doctors and Dentists in the Great War (Melbourne: Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne), pp. 94–100
  • 2015
    (with Alison Bashford) Rewriting quarantine: Pacific history at Australia’s edge, Australian Historical Studies 46, no. 3, pp. 392–409
  • 2014
    Invasion ontologies: venom, visibility and the imagined histories of arthropods, In Jodi Frawley and Iain McCalman, eds., Rethinking Invasion Ecologies from the Environmental Humanities (Oxford: Routledge), pp. 181–95
  • 2014
    Imperial science or the republic of poison letters? Venomous animals, intercolonial exchange and national identity, In Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie, eds. Routledge History of Western Empires (Oxford: Routledge), pp. 285–98
  • 2013
    (with Alison Bashford) Science and medicine, In Alison Bashford and Stuart Macintyre, eds. The Cambridge History of Australia, Volume Two: the Commonwealth of Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 263–83
  • 2013
    Spectacular serpents: snakebite in colonial Australia, In Jacqueline Healy and Kenneth D. Winkel, eds., Venom: Fear, Fascination and Discovery (Melbourne: Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne), pp. 37–46
  • 2013
    (with Hannah Forsyth) Mobilising medical knowledge for the nation, 1943–49, Health and History, 15, no. 1, pp. 59–79
  • 2011
    “Immunisation is as popular as a death adder”: the Bundaberg tragedy and the politics of medical science in interwar Australia, Social History of Medicine 24, no. 2, pp. 426–44
  • 2010
    Isolated cases? The history and historiography of Australian medical research, Health and History 12, no. 2, pp. 1–17
  • 2010
    Serpentine science: Charles Kellaway and the fluctuating fortunes of venom research in interwar Australia, Historical Records of Australian Science 21, no.1, pp. 1–34
  • 2010
    “Outside the institute there is a desert”: the tenuous trajectories of medical research in interwar Australia, Medical History 54, no. 1, pp. 1–28
  • 2009
    The whole country is poisoned: framing disease mortality in the historiography of the South African War, War & Society 28, no.1, pp. 29–60
  • 2007
    “Living in hell but still smiling”: Australian psychiatric casualties of war during the Malaya-Singapore campaign, 1941–42, Health and History 9, no. 1, pp. 28–55
  • 2007
    (with Kenneth D. Winkel) The forgotten successes and sacrifices of Charles Kellaway, director of the WEHI, 1923–1944, Medical Journal of Australia 187, no. 11/12, pp. 645–8
  • 2006
    Compromised ethical principles in randomised trials of distant, intercessory prayer, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2, no. 3, pp. 142–52

Grants and Contracts

  • 2016
    Black Box Re-order: technology, air safety and Australian airspace, 1938–68
    Chief Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council

Professional Memberships

  • Australian and New Zealand Society for the History of Medicine
  • Australian Historical Association
  • Royal Australian Historical Society
  • Australian Society for History of Engineering and Technology
  • Civil Aviation Historical Society
  • Aviation Historical Society of Australia
  • History Council of New South Wales
  • Professional Historians Association

Research Areas

  • History And Philosophy Of Medicine (220205)
  • History And Philosophy Of Science (Incl. Non Historical Philosophy Of Science) (220206)
  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) (210303)