Skip to main content

Jeffrey Paul Baker

Professor of Pediatrics
Pediatrics, General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
Box 3675 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710
234 Crooked Creek Parkway, Durham, NC 27713


I am a practicing pediatrician and a medical historian.   My early research focused on the early history of premature infant care and neonatal medicine.   Featured in my book, The Machine in the Nursery: Incubator Technology and the Origins of Neonatal Intensive Care, I examined how the controversy around the introduction of baby incubators at the dawn of the 20th century became a flash point for broader anxieties around medical technology, eugenics, and the role of physicians versus mothers in the care of young infants.   
My later research moved to this history of vaccines, and why this highly-regarded public health intervention ignited fierce public resistance in the late 20th century.  The alleged links between vaccines and autism were an important part of this story which led me to work on other aspect of the history of autism as well.  I have spoken and written in particular about the role of Leo Kanner in shaping both the definition of autism and the construction of an associated stereotype of parents as brilliant but cold and aloof.

In recent years I have been focusing on history, race, and health disparities.  I have been working on a project exploring this question in Duke's home community of Durham, North Carolina.   The first phase of this work looked at four case studies over the course of the past century:  tuberculosis in the early 1900s, childbirth during desegregation, HIV, and diabetes since 2000.   More recent work explores why understanding and acknowledging local history is essential to building trust between academic health centers and their communities.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Professor of Pediatrics · 2021 - Present Pediatrics, General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Pediatrics
Professor of the Practice in History · 2019 - Present History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society · 2017 - Present Duke Science & Society, Initiatives

Education, Training & Certifications

Duke University · 1993 Ph.D.
Duke University · 1984 M.D.