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 6:30 to 8:00 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.


  • rdent's picture

    Rosanna Dent

    Rosanna Dent is an assistant professor at NJIT, where she teaches courses on the history of science, medicine, and technology, with an emphasis on the global South. She is currently working on a book manuscript on the history of twentieth century research in Xavante (Indigenous) communities in Central Brazil. The book examines how a half-century of iterative interactions of scholars and community members have shaped knowledge production as well as the political and social realities of both subjects and scholars. 


  • mlindee's picture

    M. Susan Lindee

    Susan Lindee is Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Her work explores historical and contemporary questions raised by genetics, nuclear weapons and radiation risk. Her books include Suffering Made Real, The DNA Mystique, and Moments of Truth in Genetic Medicine.


Upcoming Meetings (all times Eastern)

  • Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

    Maile Arvin (University of Utah) will join us to discuss "Conditionally Caucasian: Polynesian Racial Classification in Early Twentieth-Century Eugenics and Physical Anthropology," chapter two of her recently published book Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai`i and Oceania. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.

Past Meetings

  • April 2, 2020

    Eben Kirksey (Institute for Advanced Study, Deakin University) will join us to discuss a chapter of his forthcoming book, The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans.

  • March 5, 2020

    We will discuss Christine Keiner's paper, "A Two-Ocean Bouillabaisse: Science, Politics, and the Central American Sea-Level Canal Controversy" Journal of the History of Biology 50, no. 4 (2017):835–887. This paper won the 2019 Everret Mendelsohn Award from the JHB. 

  • February 6, 2020

    Edna Suárez Díaz, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, will join us to discuss her recent paper: “The Molecular Basis of Evolution and Disease: A Cold War Alliance.” Journal of the History of Biology 52, no. 2 (June 1, 2019): 325–46.

  • December 5, 2019

    Sara Ray, PhD student, University of Pennsylvania
    The Monsters of Peter and Wolff: Monstrous Births and Anatomical Collecting in the Formation of Developmental Embryology, 1697-1782
    Description from Sara:
    "In the basement of the Russian Academy of Sciences there was--according to the eighteenth century embryologist Caspar Wolff--a "storehouse of monsters." Wolff was describing the hundreds of abnormal human fetuses which had been collected and preserved by Tsar Peter the Great half a century earlier--a collection which Peter had established in order to inquire into the causes of monstrosity and processes of generation. This paper treats the history of Peter's curious collection (and Wolff's use of it as research material in his theory of epigenesis) as a unique vantage point from which to revisit the eighteenth-century shift toward developmental embryology."  

  • November 7, 2019

    Please join us to meet with Gina Surita, Princeton University PhD student.  Her paper "The Power of Phosphate: Making and Breaking Bonds in Wartime" is now posted.

  • October 3, 2019
    Our guest: Tom Quick, Research Associate, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester and 2019 DeBakey Fellow at the National Library of Medicine.
    We will be looking at two readings:
    First, a shortened version (a summary) of an article currently under revision for The Historical Journal, and second, a work in progress that Quick will submit to a
    journal in the near future.
    Short summary of: A “New Race” in the Making: British Domestic Colonialism, Animal Breeding, and Early Genetics.
    Full draft of: Once Bitten: Mosquitoes, Madness and Malariologists in the Making of Ecological Epidemiology.
  • September 5, 2019

    Geoff Bil, "System and Sensibility: Indigenous Plant Names Between Nature and Artifice"

  • May 2, 2019

    Joanna Radin, Department of History, Yale University, "Rescaling Colonial Life From the Indigenous to the Alien: The Late 20th Century Search for Human Biological Futures"

  • April 4, 2019

    Paul Wolff Mitchell, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania will present "The fault in his seeds: Lost notes to the case of bias in Samuel George Morton's cranial race science" from PloS Biol 16(10), and a work in progress, "'Bodily and Spiritually Lowered and Degraded' Tiedemann, Morton, and Enslaved Africans in the Formation of 19th Century Racial Craniology".

  • March 7, 2019

    Jay Aronson, "Humanitarian DNA Identification in Post-Apartheid South Africa." An additional article, "The Strengths and Limitations of South Africa’s Search for Apartheid-Era Missing Persons," is included as optional reading.

  • Membership