New Books Network

Vanessa Heggie

Higher and Colder

A History of Extreme Physiology and Exploration

University of Chicago Press 2019

New Books in HistoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network July 26, 2019 Michael F. Robinson

Vanessa Heggie talks about the history of biomedical research in extreme environments. Heggie is a Fellow of the Institute for Global Innovation at the...

Vanessa Heggie talks about the history of biomedical research in extreme environments. Heggie is a Fellow of the Institute for Global Innovation at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of Higher and Colder: A History of Extreme Physiology and Exploration (University of Chicago Press, 2019).

During the long twentieth century, explorers went in unprecedented numbers to the hottest, coldest, and highest points on the globe. Taking us from the Himalaya to Antarctica and beyond, Higher and Colder presents the first history of extreme physiology, the study of the human body at its physical limits. Each chapter explores a seminal question in the history of science, while also showing how the apparently exotic locations and experiments contributed to broader political and social shifts in twentieth-century scientific thinking.

Unlike most books on modern biomedicine, Higher and Colder focuses on fieldwork, expeditions, and exploration, and in doing so provides a welcome alternative to laboratory-dominated accounts of the history of modern life sciences. Though centered on male-dominated practices—science and exploration—it recovers the stories of women’s contributions that were sometimes accidentally, and sometimes deliberately, erased. Engaging and provocative, this book is a history of the scientists and physiologists who face challenges that are physically demanding, frequently dangerous, and sometimes fatal, in the interest of advancing modern science and pushing the boundaries of human ability.


Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He’s the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He’s also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.