Hilary A. Smith

Associate Professor

  • Faculty

What I do

I study Chinese history and the history of science and medicine. Classes I teach include Imperial China, Modern China, Comparative History of Medicine, Disease in World History, Food in East Asian History, and Chinese Science. I am also an associate editor for the journal -Asian Medicine-.

Professional Biography

Before coming to DU, I earned degrees in the history of science from Cambridge University (M.Phil.) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), and taught at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In my teaching and research, I examine how people living in very different times and cultures from our own made sense of the natural world, including their own bodies. Studying those unfamiliar perspectives can help us understand what’s peculiar about our own views, and appreciate how social, intellectual, and political circumstances inform all knowledge, even modern scientific and medical knowledge.


  • Ph.D., History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, 2008
  • MA, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, 2004
  • M.Phil., History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, 2000
  • AB, Religion, Princeton University, 1998

Licensure / Accreditations

  • Certificate in College and University Teaching

Media Sources


My first book, Forgotten Disease: Illnesses Transformed in Chinese Medicine (Stanford, 2017), explored how Chinese understandings of disease changed between the fourth century AD and the present. I am currently at work on a China-centered history of modern nutritional knowledge.

Key Projects

  • Making Modern Diets: Science and Sustenance in Republican China

Featured Publications

Smith, Hilary Allison. “Good Food, Bad Bodies: Milk Culture And Lactose Intolerance In China.” In Moral Foods: The Construction Of Nutrition And Health In Modern Asia. edited by Angela Ki Che Leung, Melissa L. Caldwell, Robert Ji-Song Ku, and Christine R. Yano. 262-284 Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press. 2019.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Understanding The Jiaoqi Experience: The Medical Approach To Illness In Seventh-Century China.” Asia Major 21, no. 1, (2008): 273-292.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Using The Past To Serve The Peasant: Chinese Archaeology And The Making Of A Historical Science.” In A New History Of Anthropology. edited by Henrika Kuklick. 207-221 Oxford, England: Blackwell. 2007.


Smith, Hilary A. “The Pandemic Stress Test: A Historical Perspective On Moving Forward In The Age Of Covid-19” Stat (Seeking Tomorrow's Answers Together), Denver, CO, University of Denver, 2022.
Smith, Hilary A. “Historical Lessons About How Epidemics End, Or Don't” Department Of Medicine Grand Rounds, (virtual), UCSD School of Medicine, 2021.
Smith, Hilary A. “The Well Nourished Nation: Reconsidering Healthy And Pathological Eating In Early Twentieth-Century China” Workshop On Modern Overseas Chinese, Medicine, Health And Disease ??????,??????? ???, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, 2020.
Smith, Hilary A. “Vitamins, Chinese Dietetics, And Modern Nutritional Knowledge” Ma Kanwen Memorial Lecture, Cambridge, England, Needham Research Institute, 2020.
Smith, Hilary A. “The Chinese Calorie: Nutrition Science In Early Twentieth-Century China” History Of Modern Medicine Seminar, Cambridge, England, History and Philosophy of Science Department, Cambridge University, 2020.
Smith, Hilary A. “Science And Sustenance: Dietary Guidelines In The Late Qing And Early Republican Period” Institute Of History And Philology, Academia Sinica, Lecture Series, Taipei, Taiwan, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 2019.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Skipping Breakfast To Save The Nation In Early Republican China” Association For Asian Studies Annual Meeting, 2019.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “How Modern Translations Of Traditional Disease Names Distort Their Meanings: The Example Of Jiaoqi” International Congress On Traditional Asian Medicines, Kiel, Germany, 2017.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Hunger As A Medical Problem: Changes In Concepts Of Nutrition In Chinese Medicine” New Problems And Methodologies In The History Of Medicine In East Asia, Tokyo, Japan, University of Tokyo, 2016.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Origins Of 'Intolerance': Lactose And Changing Ideas About Dietary Difference In Modern China” International Conference On Food And Health, Hong Kong, China, University of Hong Kong, 2014.


  • Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award, U.S. State Department, Institute of International Education, Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (Taiwan)
  • Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation US Scholar Grant, Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (Taiwan)