John Pickstone (29 May 1944 – 12 February 2014) was a British historian of science and the Wellcome Research Professor in the Centre for the History of science, Technology and Medicine, in the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Manchester.
Pickstone was born and raised in Burnley, Lancashire, England. After attending Burnley Grammar School, he studied Natural sciences, especially physiology, at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. After his degree he took an MSc in History and philosophy of science at University College London, 1969, and completed his PhD at Chelsea College London, 1974 (on general physiology in early 19th-century France, especially the work of Dutrochet on osmosis). He has held fellowships in History of medicine at the University of Minnesota (1971–73) and at University College London (1974), before moving in 1974 to the Department of History of science and technology, UMIST, Manchester, to work on the history of hospitals in the Manchester region (Lecturer, 1977, later Senior Lecturer).
In 1985–86, as part of a rationalisation, he moved to the Victoria University of Manchester and established the Centre for the History of Science and Technology (CHSTM), including the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine and the National Archive for the History of computing before directing the Centre until 2002 when he became a Research Professor.
Latterly, Pickstone published mainly on modern medical history, e.g. cancer and medical technology; but also on regional history of STM, on which he edited two journal numbers in 2007. With Roberta Bivins, he edited a volume in honour of the late Roy Porter (Palgrave, 2007) and with Peter Bowler, edited the Cambridge University Press History of Science volume on Modern Earth and Life Sciences (2008). 'Ways of Knowing'continues to attract attention, including a special session at the American history of science conference in Washington, DC, 2007, and an invitation to produce an Osiris volume. With his work on recent medical history, it attracted international invitations; in 2007–2008, this included visits to Yale University, Pennsylvania, Paris, Maastricht, Berlin and Mexico.
For the University of Manchester, he initiated a series of 'Interfaculty Lectures', and with friends in Manchester Metropolitan University and the City, planned a major local history festival for 2009.[ citation needed ][ needs update ]
Pickstone's research interests mostly included aspects of recent medicine, such as the Wellcome project on the history of cancer in Britain, work on medical technology, the history of mental health services, and a collaborative project with the NCRDPC on recent changes in the NHS. He is increasingly interested in the uses of history for health policy.
His wider work on 'Big Pictures' and 'Ways of Knowing' grew from a conviction that through some of the hundreds of excellent papers produced in history of science, technology and medicine since the 1960s, we might develop new and better frames for understanding long-term history. He explored these themes in relation to medical technologies, science-art relations, science-technology relations, and the display of HSTM in museums.
(Some of his writings have his name as 'John V. Pickstone'.)