Dr Kersten Hall


After studying as an undergraduate in biochemistry at St. Anne's College, Oxford, I came to the University of Leeds in 1993 to undertake a PhD in molecular biology.

On completion of my PhD I worked as a post-doctoral research fellow in molecular biology in the School of Medicine from 1997 - 2005 before studying for a Masters degree in History and Philosophy of Science.

I am now a Visiting Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science where my research focusses on a range of topics including the discovery and development of insulin, the unravelling of the structure of DNA, and the origins of modern genetics.

Research interests

Insulin – the Crooked Timber: a History From Thick Brown Muck to Wall Street Gold (Oxford University Press, 2022)

Published to mark the centenary of the discovery of insulin, this book explores the monstrous egos and toxic career rivalries that surrounded this medical milestone and reveals how research into the chemistry of wool proved to be crucial in transforming insulin to become the first pharmaceutical to be made using genetic engineering. The book was featured on a list of ‘picks of the week’ in the journal Nature and has also been the subject of a number of interviews:

The Man in the Monkeynut Coat: William Astbury and How Wool Wove a Forgotten Road to the Double-Helix (Oxford University Press, 2014)

My previous book explores the life and work of scientific pioneer William Astbury who, with his research assistant Florence Bell, made the very first attempt to solve the structure of DNA using X-rays. Although this achievement paved the way for the later work of the scientist Rosalind Franklin, and the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule by James Watson and Francis Crick, tne names of Astbury and Bell have largely been forgotten. When it was first published in 2014, the book was shortlsted for the 2015 British Society for the History of Science Dingle Prize as well as being included on a 'Books of 2014' list by a reviewer at 'The Guardian' newspaper and a list of recommended reading to accompany an edition of the BBC Radio 4 series 'In Our Time'. The book will be released as a revised paperback edition later this year with new material.

Gregor Mendel – a New Translation: Together with Professor Staffan Mueller-Wille (University of Cambridge) (Masaryk University Press, 2020)

I have also co-authored a new translation from German into English of the seminal 1865 paper 'Experiments on Plant Hybrids' by Gregor Mendel - which is today widely hailed as being the foundation of modern genetics. This translation and accompanying commentary was supported by the British Society for the History of Science and first appeared on their website before its publication as a book by the Masaryk University Press.

Recent Online Articles

Video clips

Online Articles


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA Honours Biochemistry, University of Oxford
  • PhD, University of Leeds
  • MA, University of Leeds

Professional memberships

  • The British Society for the History of Science
  • The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society
  • The Society of Authors