Abena Dove Osseo-Asare

Assistant Professor
Office Hours: 
by appointment
3323 Dwinelle Hall

Ph. D., History of Science, Harvard University, 2005
A.B., History and Science, Harvard University, 1998

Research Interests: 

Professor Osseo-Asare studies the history of medicine and science, with special reference to cases in Africa. Her primary research focus is the history of pharmaceuticals and herbal medicines. Her first book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (The University of Chicago Press) traces the biographies of six plants which people have tried to transform into pharmaceuticals since the 1880s. Her research in Ghana, as well as Madagascar and South Africa maps the ways in which people have created overlapping narratives of ownership of healing plants across time and space. Efforts to remake botanical resources into profitable new medicines show the ways in which histories of traditional healing and pharmaceutical chemistry are intertwined and mutually supportive.  Listen to an overview with Carla Nappi for New Books in Science, Technology, and Society.

Professor Osseo-Asare is conducting research for a new project on the history of medical isotopes, radiation, and atomic energy in Ghana, funded through a National Science Foundation Scholar's Award. For more information visit here.

She is affiliated with the Department of Women and Gender Studies, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at UCSF, Berkeley's Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, & Society, and the Center for African Studies.

Representative Publications: 

Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (The University of Chicago Press, 2014).  

"Bioprospecting and Resistance: Transforming Poisoned Arrows into Strophanthin Pills in Colonial Gold Coast, 1885-1922,"Social History of Medicine 21 no. 2 (2008)

"Scientific Equity: Experiments in Laboratory Education in Ghana, 1957-1967," ISIS 104, no. 4 (2013). pdf

Book Review: The African Aids Epidemic: A History by John Iliffe, Social History of Medicine 19 no. 2 (2007): 401-402.

Book Review: Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1918 by Karen E. Flint, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 84 no. 1 (2010).


Carla Nappi, "Interview with Abena Dove Osseo-Asare," for New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, April 10, 2014 (podcast)

"Abena Dove Osseo-Asare, African History + History of Science, University of California, Berkeley," A Variation on Powers of Ten edited by Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine (Sternberg, 2012).

"Program allows gifted scholars to kick back and ... work," Harvard Gazette Oct. 9, 2008.

"Spotlights on CRG Faculty and Staff: Professor Abena Dove Osseo-Asare, History," Faultlines VI no. 1 (Fall 2007).


History of Medicine

History 280S: Drugs in World History 

History 183: Topics in the History of Medicine: Global Health and Disease

History 103H/S: Healing and Illness in African History 

African History
History 280H: Material Culture