Working Groups

Biological Sciences

The Working Group on the History of the Biological Sciences meets monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss readings that are of particular interest to participants.

Meetings are usually held at the Consortium offices in Philadelphia from 6:00 to 7:30 on first Thursdays. Scholars located anywhere can also participate online.

To join this working group, click "Request group membership" at right. You will receive instructions for participating online or in person.


  • Tina Gianquitto

    Tina Gianquitto is an associate professor of literature at the Colorado School of Mines, where she teaches courses in literature and the environment, American literature, literature an the history of nineteenth-century science, especially the emergence of evolutionary thought and Darwinism. She is currently writing a book that examines the influence Darwin’s plant studies had on galvanizing responses to evolutionary theory in the U.S. in the late 19th century.  She has written on women, nature and science, as well as on Darwinian botany, and, in a different vein, Jack London. 


  • Betty Smocovitis

    Betty Smocovitis is Professor of History at the University of Florida. She studies the history, philosophy and social study of the twentieth century biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology, systematics, ecology, and genetics. She also studies the history of the botanical sciences in America.


Upcoming Meetings (all times Eastern)

  • Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 6:00pm

    Chapters 13, 14 and 15 of Marianne Sommer, History Within: The Science, Culture, and Politics of Bones, Organisms and Molecules (University of Chicago Press, 2016). We will be focusing on the "molecules" part of this ambitious and long book, and especially the work done by people like Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Mark Feldman at Stanford University on human population genetics, genomics and the "genographic project."

  • Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 6:00pm


Past Meetings

  • October 5, 2017


  • May 4, 2017

    Lawrence Kessler will join the group, as we discuss a chapter from his on-going project, entitled "Entomology and Empire: Biological Pest Control, Diversified Farming, and Hawaiian Sugarcane Planters' Campaign for Annexation, 1893-1898."  Mary Richie Mcguire (of Virginia Tech's STS Program) will lead discussion.

  • April 6, 2017

    Jim Endersby, Orchid (U. Chicago, 2016).  Discussion led by Rich Bellon (Department of History, Michigan State University).

  • March 2, 2017
    The group discussed chapters 1 and 4 from former PACHS/CHSTM post-doc fellow Abe Gibson's new book, Feral Animals in the South: An Evolutionary History (Cambridge UP, 2016).  
  • February 2, 2017

    Sigrid Schmalzer of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, discussed sections of her book, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016).

  • December 1, 2016

    The group discussed selections from Samuel Redman's Bone Rooms (Harvard, 2016).

  • October 27, 2016

    The group discussed two recent articles with their authors: "Ark and Archive: Making a Place for Long-Term Research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama," by Megan Raby of University of Texas, Austin and "The Right Tool and the Right Place for the Job: The Importance of the Field in Experimental Neurophysiology, 1880-1945" by Samantha Muka of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • May 5, 2016

    The group discussed Raf de Bont, Stations in the Field: A History of Place-Based Animal Research, 1870-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Introduction, Chapter 1, and Conclusion.

  • April 7, 2016

    The group continued its semester theme of examining the decades of the twenties and the thirties. We read the introduction and chapters 2, 3 and 5 of Adam Shapiro's book titled Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Discussion was lead by Adam Shapiro.

  • March 3, 2016

    Our discussion centered on the Introduction, Chapters 1 and 4 of the new book by James Strick titled Wilhelm Reich, Biologist (Harvard University Press, 2015). We discussed Reich's polymathic and quite remarkable career as a scientist whose works were so controversial, that they were burned both by the Nazis and the US Government. The author James Strick joined us for the discussion.

Group Membership