Helen King (classicist)

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Helen King
'Bodily Fluids Fluid Bodies in Greek and Roman Antiquity 32.jpg
King giving a keynote presentation at Cardiff University in 2016
Born1957 (age 62–63)
Academic background
Alma materUniversity College London
Academic work
Sub-disciplineAncient medicine
InstitutionsUniversity of Reading
Open University

Helen King (born 1957) is a British classical scholar. She is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at the Open University.[1] She was previously Professor of the History of Classical Medicine and Head of the Department of Classics at the University of Reading.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

King was born in 1957. For King going to university or doing a PhD wasn't inevitable, and she had little notion of what doctoral research involved.[3] Nevertheless, she completed her first degree in Ancient History and Social Anthropology at University College London. She was awarded her doctorate in 1985 for a PhD on menstruation in ancient Greece supervised by Sarah C. (Sally) Humphreys.[4][5] Her thesis was entitled From 'parthenos' to 'gyne': the Dynamics of Category.

Academic career[edit]

Helen King delivering her keynote lecture, Cardiff University, 2016

Having completed her doctorate, King held research fellowships at the universities of Cambridge and Newcastle, taught at the Liverpool Institute of Higher Education for eight years, and moved to Reading on a Wellcome Trust University Award in 1996. From 2008 she was also Visiting Professor at the Peninsula Medical School in Truro. She moved to the Open University to assume the role of Professor of Classical Studies in 2011. She retired in January 2017 and took up the position of Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell Visiting Professor 2017–2018 at Gustavus Adolphus College, St Peter, MN.[6]

King was a Women's Studies Area Advisor to the Oxford Classical Dictionary (1996). She has been a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (2001), a Landsdowne Visiting Lecturer at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (2002), a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin (2005), a Käthe Leichter Visiting Professor in Women's Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Vienna (2014)[7] and Provost's Distinguished Women Lecturer, Notre Dame, IN (2016).[8] King has appeared on History Cold Case, Tony Robinson's Gods & Monsters, and Harlots, Housewives & Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls.[9] She has contributed to two episodes of In Our Time (radio series) on BBC Radio 4, speaking on Galen[10] and The Hippocratic Oath.[11]

Research interests[edit]

With the publication of her book Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece (1998), King established herself as the leading authority on the practice and theory of ancient medicine as relating to women and how it continues to influence thought to the present day. In her 2007 book, Midwifery, Obstetrics and the Rise of Gynaecology: The Uses of a Sixteenth-Century Compendium, she examined the uses of ancient medicine in a collection of ancient and medieval works on gynecology produced in three editions, the last being in 1597 by Israel Spach, and the different interpretations of this collection up to James Young Simpson in the nineteenth century.[12]

She has also published on the myths of Tithonos,[13] on mermaids,[14] and on the myth/fable of Agnodice, "the first midwife".[15] She has investigated how this story was used to give authority to women in medical roles in various historical periods.[16]

Professional contribution[edit]

King was a member of the General Synod of the Church of England from 1985 to 1993 and, as part of the 'Historical' thematic working group, is contributing to the Church's proposed teaching document on human sexuality.[17]

Front cover image of Helen King, Greek and Roman Medicine (2001)

Select publications[edit]

  • Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece (1998); ISBN 0415138957[18]
  • Greek and Roman Medicine (2001). ISBN 9781853995453[19]
  • The Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis and the Problems of Puberty (2004); ISBN 0-203-48710-9
  • Health in Antiquity (2005); ISBN 9780415220651[20]
  • Midwifery, Obstetrics and the Rise of Gynaecology: The Uses of a Sixteenth-Century Compendium (2007); ISBN 9780754653967
  • Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity into Early Modern Europe (with Manfred Horstmansoff and Claus Zittel 2012); ISBN 978-90-04-22918-1[21]
  • La Médecine dans l' Antiquité grecque et romaine (with Véronique Dasen, 2008); ISBN 9782970053668
  • The One-Sex Body on Trial: The Classical and Early Modern Evidence (2013); ISBN 978-1-4094-6335-1[22]
  • Hippocrates Now: The 'Father of Medicine' in the Internet Age (2019); ISBN 9781350005891[23]


  1. ^ "Professor Helen King". OU people profiles. Open University. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  2. ^ Erskine, Andrew (2009). A companion to ancient history. John Wiley and Sons. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4051-3150-6. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  3. ^ "My Classics Career: Prof. Helen King". WCC-UK. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  4. ^ King, Helen (15 August 2016). "My Classics Career". Women's Classical Committee. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ King, Helen (1985). From 'parthenos' to 'gyne': the dynamics of category. PhD Thesis, University of London. p. 5.
  6. ^ "Nobel Conference 2017 Program" (PDF). 3 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Käthe-Leichter-GastprofessorInnen ab 1999". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Provost's Distinguished Women Lecturers".
  9. ^ "Helen King". IMDb. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  10. ^ "In Our Time, Galen". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  11. ^ "In Our Time, The Hippocratic Oath". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  12. ^ Leong, Elaine (October 2009). "Book Review: Midwifery, obstetrics and the rise of gynaecology: the uses of a sixteenth-century compendium". Medical History. 53 (4): 591–592. doi:10.1017/S0025727300000582. PMC 2766157.
  13. ^ Davidson, James (26 May 2009). The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 678. ISBN 978-0-375-50516-4. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  14. ^ Cordingly, David (12 March 2002). Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-375-75872-0. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Agnodice: reading the story". 18 October 2017.
  16. ^ King, Helen (2013). The One-Sex Body on Trial. Routledge. ISBN 9781138247628.
  17. ^ "Membership of the Episcopal Teaching Document and Pastoral Advisory Group". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Review of 'Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece'". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  19. ^ Riddle, John M. (15 June 2004). "Greek and Roman Medicine (review)". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 78 (2): 465–466. doi:10.1353/bhm.2004.0096. ISSN 1086-3176.
  20. ^ "Review of 'Health in Antiquity'". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Review of 'Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity into Early Modern Europe'". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Review of 'The One-Sex Body on Trial: The Classical and Early Modern Evidence'". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Bloomsbury Classical Press". 9 July 2019.

External links[edit]