Hilary Allison Smith

Associate Professor

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.

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
  • AB, Religion, Princeton University, 1998

Licensure / Accreditations

  • Certificate in College and University Teaching


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 revisionist, 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 and Melissa L. Caldwell. 262-284 Honolulu, Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i Press. 2019.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “ Beyond Indulgence: Diet-Induced Illnesses In Chinese Medicine.” Historia Scientiarum 27, no. 2, (2018): 233-253.
Smith, Hilary Allison. “Skipping Breakfast To Save The Nation: A Different Kind Of Dietary Determinism In Early Twentieth-Century China.” Global Food History 4, no. 2, (2018): 152-167.
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.


  • The Chinese Calorie: Nutrition Science in Early Twentieth-Century China
  • Science and Sustenance: Dietary Guidelines in the Late Qing and Early Republican Period
  • Skipping Breakfast to Save the Nation in Early Republican China
  • How modern translations of traditional disease names distort their meanings: the example of jiaoqi
  • Milk in Chinese Medicine
  • Hunger as a Medical Problem: Changes in Concepts of Nutrition in Chinese Medicine
  • Origins of 'Intolerance': Lactose and Changing Ideas about Dietary Difference in Modern China