Skip to main content

Past Event

Monkey Glands and Moisturisers: Anti-ageing in Modern Britain

Registration required

Hormones were hailed in the early twentieth century as one of the most promising explanations for physiological function and the ageing process. This talk explores controversial new hormone treatments which claimed to restore youthfulness and exerted a strong influence over public perceptions of how bodies worked in the 1920s and 30s. Laboratory and clinical research influenced the marketing of commercial rejuvenation therapies and companies produced an enticing range of products containing hormones, including skin care products. The widely-publicised research of gland-manipulating surgeons – particularly Eugen Steinach and Serge Voronoff – who gained notoriety by performing rejuvenating operations designed to restore bodily hormonal balance attracted considerable press interest. Newspapers and magazines carried numerous reports of procedures carried out on prominent society figures, yet for many these expensive and highly specialised treatments were out of reach and they reached instead for cheaper dietary supplements, skin creams, and personal exercise regimes. All of this had a profound impact on how ageing was conceptualised – as a loss of function, capacity, and energy – as well as the huge marketplace of anti-ageing and rejuvenation products that we see today.

About the Speaker

Dr James Stark, Leeds

James Stark is Associate Professor of Medical Humanities and Head of the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on the history of modern medicine, health and the biological sciences. His most recent area of inquiry has been rejuvenation and regeneration in medicine and society, the subject of a forthcoming monograph: The Cult of Youth: Anti-Ageing in Modern Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2020). As well as ongoing interest in histories of medical technology he is currently developing a new research project on the visual representation of microorganisms in the twentieth century, inspired by a collaboration with researchers in design and nursing.

This event is part of a seminar series:

Hilary 2020 Seminar Series: The Construction of Ageing

The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, Oxford’s Humanities and Healthcare programme and the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life are co-hosting a seminar series on The Construction of Ageing.  While ageing is often considered a biological process, what it means to be young or old, youthful or elderly, is inevitably socially constructed. This suggests that ther...

Event Details

18 February 2020 16:00 - 17:00


Christ Church, Oxford University

Christ Church, St. Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1DP