David S. Jones

David S. Jones

A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine
David S. Jones

Areas of Research: Science & Race, Global Health / Public Health, History of Biology, History of Medicine, Medical Humanities, Psychology & Theories of Mind, Science & Technology Studies, Technology & Society


David Jones completed his A.B. at Harvard College in 1993 (History and Science), and then pursued a Ph.D. in History of Science at Harvard University and an M.D. at Harvard Medical School, receiving both in 2001. After an internship in pediatrics at Children's Hospital and Boston Medical Center, he trained as a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, and then worked for two years as a staff psychiatrist in the Psychiatric Emergency Service at Cambridge Hospital. He joined the faculty at MIT in 2005 as an Assistant Professor of the History and Culture of Science and Technology. From 2004 to 2008 Professor Jones directed the Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine at MIT, organizing a successful series of conferences about race, science, and technology. In 2009 he was appointed as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT’s highest honor for faculty who have made sustained contributions to undergraduate education. He also taught as a lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where he was awarded the 2010 Donald O'Hara Faculty Prize for Excellence in Teaching. In 2011 he left MIT to join the Harvard faculty fulltime as the inaugural A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine, a joint position between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine. The Ackerman Program at Harvard University fosters collaborations in the medical humanities and social sciences across the two campuses.

His initial research focused on epidemics among American Indians, resulting in a book, Rationalizing Epidemics: Meanings and Uses of American Indian Mortality since 1600 (published by Harvard University Press in 2004), and several articles. Jones has also examined human subjects research, Cold War medicine, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and the history of cardiac surgery. His current research explores the history of decision making in cardiac therapeutics, attempting to understand how cardiologists and cardiac surgeons implement new technologies of cardiac revascularization. This research is supported by an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, and by the National Science Foundation. The first book from this work, Broken Hearts: The Tangled History of Cardiac Care (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) examines why it can be so difficult for physicians to determine the efficacy and safety of their treatments. He is now at work on two follow up books.  One, On the Origins of Therapies, will trace the evolution of coronary artery bypass surgery.  The other examines the history of heart disease and cardiac therapeutics in India.



  • “On the Origins of Therapies: Innovation, Imagination, and the Evolution of Coronary Artery Surgery, 1910-1970.”  National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health, 2015-2018.
  • with Kavita Sivaramakrishnan (Columbia University), “Relocating Heart Disease in the Tropics: Race, Risk, and Modernization in Post-Independence India.”  National Endowment for the Humanities, 2014-2017.
  • with David Kaiser and Vincent Lepinay, “Predictive Modeling of the Emergence and Development of Scientific Fields.”  National Science Foundation, Program on the Science of Science and Innovation Policy, 2010-2012.
  • “The Rise and Fall of Cardiac Revascularization: Therapeutic Evolution and Health Policy in the Late Twentieth Century.”  Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2008-2010.

Selected Articles and Chapters

  • Jones, D.S., C. Grady, and S.E.. Lederer.  “Ethics and Clinical Research” — The 50th Anniversary of Beecher’s “Bombshell.”  New England Journal of Medicine 374 (16 June 2016): 2393-2398.

  • Bothwell, L.E., Jeremy A. Greene, Scott H. Podolsky, and David S. Jones. “Assessing the Gold Standard: Lessons from the History of RCTs.” New England Journal of Medicine 374 (2016): 2175-2181.

  • “Therapeutic Evolution or Revolution? Metaphors and Their Consequences.” In Therapeutic Revolutions: Pharmaceuticals and Social Change in the Twentieth Century, ed. Jeremy A. Greene, Flurin Contra and Elizabeth Siegel Watkins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016.

  • Pollock, A., and David S. Jones. “Coronary Artery Disease and the Contours of Pharmaceuticalization.” Social Science & Medicine 131 (2015): 221-227.

  • Jones, D.S., Jeremy A. Greene, Jacalyn Duffin, and John Warner. “Making the Case for History in Medical Education.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 70 (2015): 623-652.

  • “Death, Uncertainty, and Rhetoric.” In Beyond Germs: The Impact of Colonialism on Indigenous Health in America, ed. Alan C. Swedlund, Kathy Cameron, and Paul Kelton, pp. 16-49. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 2015.

  • Oldfield, B., and David S. Jones. “Languages of the Heart: The Biomedical and the Metaphorical in American Fiction.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 57 (2014): 424-442. 

  • Jones, D.S. “How Personalized Medicine Became Genetic, and Racial: Werner Kalow and the Formations of Pharmacogenetics.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 68 (2013): 1-48.

  • Jones, D.S., and J.A. Greene, “The Decline and Rise of Coronary Heart Disease: Understanding Public Health Catastrophism.” American Journal of Public Health 103 (July 2013).

  • Jones, D.S. “The Prospects of Personalized Medicine.” In Genetic Explanation: Sense and Nonsense, ed. Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber, pp. 147-170. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

  • Podolsky, Scott H., Jeremy A. Greene, and D.S. Jones. “The Changing Role of the Medical Journal.” New England Journal of Medicine 366 (19 April 2012): 1457-1461.

  • Jones, D.S., Scott H. Podolsky, and Jeremy A. Greene. “The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine.” New England Journal of Medicine (21 June 2012): 2333-2338.

  • Jones, D.S. “Olympic Medicine.” New England Journal of Medicine 367 (26 July 2012): 289-292.

  • Jones, D.S. “How Much CABG Is Good for Us?” Lancet 380 (11 August 2012): 557-558.

  • Jeremy A. Greene, D.S. Jones, and Scott H. Podolsky. “Therapeutic Evolution and the Challenge of Rational Medicine.” New England Journal of Medicine 367 (September 2012): 1077-1082.

  • Jones, D.S., and J.A. Greene, “The Contributions of Prevention and Treatment to the Decline in Cardiovascular Mortality: Lessons from a Forty-Year Debate.” Health Affairs 31 (October 2012): 2250-2258.

  • Jones, D.S., A. Cambrosio, and A. Mogoutov. “The Detection and Characterization of Translational Research in Cancer and Cardiovascular Medicine.” Journal of Translational Medicine 9 (2011): 57 (12 pages).

  • Dorr, Gregory M., and D.S. Jones. “Facts and Fictions: BiDil and the Resurgence of Racial Medicine.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 36 (Fall 2008): 443-448.

  • Jones, D.S. “The Persistence of American Indian Health Disparities.” American Journal of Public Health 96 (December 2006): 2122-2134.

  • Jones, D.S., R.H. Perlis. “Pharmacogenetics, Race, and Psychiatry.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 14 (March-April 2006): 92-108.

  • Jones, D.S., and R.L. Martensen. “Human Radiation Experiments and the Formation of Medical Physics at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley, 1937-1962.” In Useful Bodies: Humans in the Service of Medical Science in the Twentieth Century, ed. Jordon Goodman, Anthony McElligott, and Lara Marks, 91-108. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

  • Jones, D.S. “Virgin Soils Revisited.” William and Mary Quarterly, 60:4 (October 2003): 703-742.

  • Jones, D.S. “The Health Care Experiments at Many Farms: The Navajo, Tuberculosis, and the Limits of Modern Medicine, 1952-1962.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 76 (Winter 2002): 749-790.

  • Jones, D.S. “Technologies of Compliance: Surveillance of Self-Administration of Tuberculosis Treatment, 1956-1966.” History and Technology 17 (Winter 2001): 279-318.

  • Jones, D.S. “Visions of a Cure: Visualization, Clinical Trials, and Controversies in Cardiac Therapeutics, 1968-1998.” Isis 91 (September 2000): 504-541.





Contact Information

p: (617) 495-3562