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Jeffrey P. Baker, Professor of Pediatrics

Jeffrey P. Baker

I am a practicing pediatrician and a medical historian.   My early research focused on the early history of premature infant care and neonatal medicine.   Featured in my book, The Machine in the Nursery: Incubator Technology and the Origins of Neonatal Intensive Care, I examined how the controversy around the introduction of baby incubators at the dawn of the 20th century became a flash point for broader anxieties around medical technology, eugenics, and the role of physicians versus mothers in the care of young infants.   
My later research moved to this history of vaccines, and why this highly-regarded public health intervention ignited fierce public resistance in the late 20th century.  The alleged links between vaccines and autism were an important part of this story which led me to work on other aspect of the history of autism as well.  I have spoken and written in particular about the role of Leo Kanner in shaping both the definition of autism and the construction of an associated stereotype of parents as brilliant but cold and aloof.

In recent years I have been focusing on history, race, and health disparities.  I have been working on a project exploring this question in Duke's home community of Durham, North Carolina.   The first phase of this work looked at four case studies over the course of the past century:  tuberculosis in the early 1900s, childbirth during desegregation, HIV, and diabetes since 2000.   More recent work explores why understanding and acknowledging local history is essential to building trust between academic health centers and their communities.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  234 Crooked Creek Parkway, Durham, NC 27713
Office Phone:  (919) 620-5374
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Fall 2023):

    TBA, 12:00 AM-11:59 PM
    TBA, 12:00 AM-11:59 PM
    TBA, W 05:15 PM-07:15 PM

Ph.D.Duke University1993
M.D.Duke University1984
Research Interests:

Dr. Baker's research centers on the history of child health and medical technology. Dr. Baker has taught courses on the history of medical ethics, medical technology, and genetics. He has published a book, The Machine in the Nursery, recounting the origins of the premature infant nursery in Europe and the United States. He is now working on a history of immunizations.


Authoritarianism • Autistic Disorder • Bacterial Vaccines • Behavior Therapy • Benchmarking • Bioethics • Brain • Child • Communicable Disease Control • Communicable Diseases • Diphtheria Toxoid • Disease Outbreaks • Drug Industry • France • Government Regulation • Great Britain • History, 19th Century • History, 20th Century • History, 21st Century • Humans • Immunization Programs • Incubators • Incubators, Infant • Infant • Infant, Newborn • Infant, Premature • Internationality • Love • Measles Vaccine • Medical Errors • Medical Laboratory Science • Medicine--United States--History • Mercury Poisoning • Neonatology • Parental Consent • Pediatrics • Pertussis Vaccine • Physicians, Women • Poliovirus Vaccine, Inactivated • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical • Psychiatry • Psychology, Applied • Public Health • Research Subjects • Risk Assessment • Risk Management • Twentieth century • United States • Vaccination • Vaccines • Viral Vaccines • Whooping Cough • Women

Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Baker, JP, Mercury, vaccines, and autism: one controversy, three histories., Am J Public Health, vol. 98 no. 2 (February, 2008), pp. 244-253, ISSN 1541-0048 [18172138], [doi]  [abs]
  2. Baker, JP; Katz, SL, Childhood vaccine development: an overview., Pediatric Research, vol. 55 no. 2 (February, 2004), pp. 347-356, ISSN 0031-3998 [14630981], [doi]  [abs]
  3. Baker, JP, The pertussis vaccine controversy in Great Britain, 1974-1986., Vaccine, vol. 21 no. 25-26 (September, 2003), pp. 4003-4010, ISSN 0264-410X [12922137], [doi]  [abs]
  4. Baker, J.P. “Technology in the Nursery,” in Formative Years: Children’s Health in the United States 1880-2000, ed. Alexandra Minna Stern and Howard Markel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2002)
  5. Baker, JP, The incubator and the medical discovery of the premature infant., Journal of Perinatology : Official Journal of the California Perinatal Association, vol. 20 no. 5 (2000), pp. 321-328, ISSN 0743-8346 [10920793], [doi]  [abs]
  6. Baker, JP, Immunization and the American way: 4 childhood vaccines., American Journal of Public Health, vol. 90 no. 2 (February, 2000), pp. 199-207, ISSN 0090-0036 [10667180], [doi]  [abs]
  7. Book Review: Heather Munro Prescott, A Doctor of Their Own: The History of Adolescent Medicine. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74 (2000): 409-410
  8. Book Review: Murdina Desmond, Newborn Medicine and Society. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 73 (1999): 743-744
  9. Baker, Jeffrey P.  The Machine in the Nursery: Incubator Technology and  the Origins of Newborn Intensive Care (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)
  10. Mauro, R.D., Baker, J., and Mackedonski, V. "A Five-year-old Girl with Acute Renal Failure and Multiple Cerebral Infarctions." Journal of Pediatrics 115 (1989):816-823.

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