Alison McManus

Alison McManus

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Research Interests: Chemical Warfare, Information Control, Chemical Sciences

Education: PhD

I am a historian of modern chemistry, with research interests in chemical warfare, information control, and the role of prediction in the chemical sciences. My current monograph investigates WWII-era chemical weapons research and development, focusing on four national contexts: the US, the UK, Germany, and Italy. The project juxtaposes chemical substances and chemical intelligence. It follows cutting-edge research programs, which yielded the first nerve agents and the herbicide cocktail now known as Agent Orange, and reconstructs efforts by chemical practitioners to guess at enemy progress behind closed doors.

My previous work examined the censorship of American scientific journals during World War II, a thorny problem that required scientists to compromise between systems of credit allocation and the exigencies of national security. Among other things, this project allowed me a deep dive into the chemistry of poison ivy.

Before joining Johns Hopkins, I obtained a PhD in History of Science from Princeton University (2023) and a BA in Chemistry / History from the University of Chicago (2016). In 2021–2022, I was a Visiting Predoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. My work has been generously supported by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the American Institute of Physics.