Alison McManus

Alumni; Ph.D. 2023

Alison McManus is a PhD Candidate in Princeton's Program in the History of Science, where she obtained her MA degree in 2019. Her dissertation, "The Other Chemists' War," highlights the Second World War as a transformational moment in the history of chemical weaponry, which laid the material and informational foundations for later chemical wars. The dissertation follows German, American, and British research programs, which yielded both the G-series nerve agents (tabun, sarin, and soman) as well as the herbicide cocktail now known as Agent Orange. It also examines practices of information control — including scientific publication policy, intellectual property claims, censorship, and espionage — and traces how these knowledge flows contributed to the use or non-use of novel chemical agents on 20th-century battlefields.

Alison is currently a Visiting Predoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her work has been generously supported by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the American Institute of Physics.

Since 2020, she has served as Postgraduate Representative for the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC), where she has organized workshops on (al)chemical secrecy and, more recently, on (al)chemical sciences outside traditional laboratory spaces.

She especially welcomes collaboration with other early career scholars of modern chemistry and allied sciences.

Dissertation Title:

"The Other Chemists' War: The Uses, Dual Uses, and Abuses of Chemical Weapons in World War II"

Degree Year
Year of Study
Area of Interest
Environmental History
History of Technology
Imperial History
Military History
Home Department & Other Affiliations
20th Century
United States