Dr Laura Dawes

PhD (Harvard), MSc (Oxon), BSc (hons) (Murdoch)
Research Fellow/Lecturer, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Historical Studies Not Elsewhere Classified 430399
  • Other Law And Legal Studies Not Elsewhere Classified 489999
  • Other Health Sciences Not Elsewhere Classified 429999

Research interests

My particular area of expertise is the intersection of science/medicine, public policy and the law. My research focuses on the public communication of science/medicine and public health, and also communication to specialized audiences outside of science, including the use of science/medicine in the law. My publications have included a study of the communication and reception of the theory of continental drift, the childhood obesity epidemic, public health as wartime strategy, patient activism, alternative health, medicine and the US space program, the rhetoric of climate change, and the use of the law to communicate and advance health policy.


Laura Dawes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster, who is devoted to the vibrant communication of science and medicine through both non-fiction and fiction. Her speciality is the history of modern science and particularly the history of medicine and the law. Dr Dawes's first book, CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN AMERICA: BIOGRAPHY OF AN EPIDEMIC, was published to wide acclaim in 2014. She holds a PhD from Harvard University in History of Science, a Masters degree from Oxford University and a Bachelors degree from Murdoch University in Western Australia where she also won the University Medal. Dr Dawes has received numerous awards, prizes and fellowships, including the Frank Knox Fellowship at Harvard, the Clarendon and Chevening Scholarships at Oxford, a Warren Center Research fellowship, Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Academic Excellence, the Frank Gillespie Prize, the Ronald Searcy Prize, the Parnell O'Connor Prize for creative writing and an award in the Wellcome Trust/Guardian Science Writing Prize. Her second book FIGHTING FIT: THE WARTIME BATTLE FOR BRITAIN’S HEALTH was shortllisted for ACT Book of the Year.


Researcher's projects

I am currently working on a book, "A Sunburnt Country", on the connection between sun and skin cancer, and public communication efforts in 20th and 21st century Australia.

I am also researching the introduction and communication of DNA evidence in the Australian legal system, and a project on two historic cases of "cancer quackery" in Australia - John Braund and Milan Brych.

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Updated:  30 September 2023 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers