The RAF and the Evolution of Global Health

23 March 2022

Dr Gemma Bowsher (Kings College London) will contextualise the role of the RAF within global health through the history of the RAF Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine. This lecture, hosted live at the Royal Aeronautical Society at 6PM 23 March, can be attended in person or virtually.

Talk Outline

The RAF Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine holds an important place in the history of defence medical services, and more widely, the development of the field of tropical medicine and global health. As a centre of disease research and vaccine development, the Institute featured as an important player in the United Kingdom’s disease response capabilities. Spanish Flu, the early trials of penicillin and the development of large-scale vaccine production are but a few of the key medical events of the 20th century to have driven activity at the Institute. Now amidst the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, the role of such units emerges as a key element of national approaches to outbreak preparedness.

This project seeks to contextualise the role of the RAF within global health through the history of this site. The RAF’s association with clinical medicine is well documented in relation to aviation medicine and surgery (in particular burns), however its role as a driver of innovation in tropical medicine and global health has received comparatively little recognition. Through archival research and interviews, the role of this unit will be shown within the broader timeline of military association with global health, as well as medicine’s association with air power. These enduring associations cultivated through the work of the Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine provoke reflection on the future of such research and capability development within the Defence Medical Services.


This lecture will be held at the Royal Aeronautical Society, No. 4 Hamilton Place, Mayfair, London, W1J 7BQ, on Wednesday 23 March 2022.

This lecture will begin at 6PM. Tea and Coffee will be available beforehand.


In-Person: This lecture is free to attend in-person but registration is required. Booking is quick and easy:
Book Now for this free lecture

Virtually: This lecture is free to attend virtually via the RAF Museum’s Crowdcast channel.

To access the lecture you may need to check your internet browser is compatible. It is currently reported that Google Chrome provides the best experience for using Crowdcast.

About Gemma Bowsher

Dr Gemma Bowsher is a social scientist working on global health security with a focus on health security intelligence, civil/military cooperation, and public health in conflict settings. She is the co-principal investigator for the health intelligence and biosecurity theme at the King’s College London, Department of War Studies’ Conflict and Health Research Group. She is also an affiliate member of the KCL Centre for Science and Security Studies.

Her work at KCL focuses on health security intelligence, linking clinical domains with intelligence processes within national and international governance systems. She works with organisations and researchers across defence, academia and public policy. She received her master’s degree in medical anthropology from Harvard University in 2016 and her PhD at KCL is funded by the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership.

Gemma holds the Metro Supply Chain fellowship of the Canadian Conference of Defence Associations Institute and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health. She is also a practising medical doctor in London.


The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies form part of the RAF Museum’s Research Programme for 2022. The RAF Museum is grateful to the Royal Aeronautical Society for the ongoing support it provides by hosting the Trenchard Lecture Series.

The 2022 programme also includes Lunchtime Air Power History Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and  Air Power lectures co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton.


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The RAeS is the world’s only professional body dedicated to the
aerospace community, it exists to further the advancement of aeronautical art, science and engineering around the world. Established in 1866, the Society has been at the forefront of developments in aerospace, seeking to promote the highest professional standards and provide a central forum for sharing knowledge. You can find further details about the work that the RAeS does on their website*:

*All links to external websites are provided for informational purposes only. The RAF Museum bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of these sites.