Dr. Cagle’s circuitous route from the American South to the University of Utah took him through Spain, Portugal, Morocco, South Korea, Brazil, and India. He graduated with honors from Clemson University and ultimately earned his PhD at Rutgers. His work combines Latin American and comparative history with the history of science.
His first book, Assembling the Tropics, explores the causes and consequences of medical research in the world’s first global empire. Beginning in the late fifteenth century, Portugal established colonies from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia and South America, enabling the earliest comparisons of nature and disease across this global region that we now think of as the tropical world. Cagle shows how the proliferation of colonial approaches to medicine and natural history led to the idea of “the tropics” as a single, coherent, and internally consistent global region. This is a story about how places acquire medical meaning, about how nature and disease become objects of scientific inquiry, and about what is at stake when that happens.
Cagle’s next project uses the curious case of the Amazonian manatee (T. inunguis) to explore the history of scientific classification (the modern field of systematics). His work has been generously supported by a host of organizations in the US and abroad, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Texas at Austin, the Center of Latin American Studies at the University of Kansas, Portugal's Fundação Luso-Americano, the Gulbenkian Foundation, and the Society for the Social History of Medicine.
Like his research, Dr. Cagle’s teaching is marked by a concern for historical debates, a penchant for comparison, and an emphasis on global connections. He is currently preparing a course called Science and Society since 1500 and another called Pandemics and Global Health.
He encourages students to drop by his office (CTIHB 329) to chat about International Studies, the history of science, or just to say hello.