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Dr Richard McKay

Dr Richard McKay is Director of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (Parts II and III) and an Affiliate Member of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Dr McKay joined the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in January 2013 on a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship, following a master’s and doctorate at the University of Oxford and an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship held at King’s College London.

From 2013 to 2021 the Department was home to his historical research study, Before HIV: Homosex and Venereal Disease, c.1939–1984’, which examines the process by which healthcare workers and gay men, among other groups, became increasingly interested in the role played by men who had sex with men in the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. The research concentrates on the middle decades of the twentieth century, with a geographic focus on Canada, the United States, and England. Since August 2021, Dr McKay has continued work on the project independently.

He works part-time as a researcher, spending the rest of his working time in private practice as a credentialed career/academic/life coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation.

Research Interests

Twentieth-century history of medicine and public health, history of sexuality and sexually transmitted infections, history of HIV/AIDS, epidemics, contact tracing, oral history, visual sources.


Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies and History, University of British Columbia.

Master of Sciences in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, University of Oxford.

Doctor of Philosophy in History, University of Oxford.

Professional Affiliations

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Policy Development Officer for the Society for the Social History of Medicine
  • Associate Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation

Selected Publications

The History of Science and Medicine in the Context of COVID-19
Charters E, McKay RA
Centaurus 2020;62;223–33.

Why Do We Do What We Do? The Values of the Social History of Medicine
McKay RA, Pelling M, Humphreys M, Huisman F, Woods A and Okuleye Y
Social History of Medicine 2020;33;1;3-17
DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkz113

Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic
McKay RA
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017

1970s and ‘Patient 0’ HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America
Worobey M, Watts TD, McKay RA, Suchard MA, Granade T, Teuwen DE, Koblin BA, Heneine W, Lemey P & Jaffe HW
Nature 2016;539;98-101
PUBMED: 5257289; DOI: 10.1038/nature19827

'Patient Zero': The Absence of a Patient's View of the Early North American AIDS Epidemic
McKay RA
Bulletin of the History of Medicine 2014;88;1;161–94.
PUDMED: 4046389; DOI: 10.1353/bhm.2014.0005