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)

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • February 4, 2016

    For its first session of 2016, the group discussed Luis A. Campos, Radium and the Secret of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Chapters 2 and 4, and Luis Campos joined the group to help guide the discussion.

  • December 3, 2015

    The theme was migration and the biological sciences with an eye to exploring some recent literature. Lijing Jiang at Nanyang Technological University lead the discussion of two papers centering on two kinds of Biological Sciences and a third, which provides relevant insights on Chinese/American Scientists. Lisa Onaga of Nanyang Technological University joined and gave comments as well.Readings: Lijing Jiang, "Retouching the Past with Living Things: Indigenous Species, Tradition, and Biological Research in Republican China, 1918-1937" (manuscript). Lisa Onaga, "Ray Wu as Fifth Business: Deconstructing Collective Memory in the History of DNA Sequencing." Std. Hist. Phil. Biol. Biomed. Sci. (2014) 46: 1-14. Background Reading: Zuoyue Wang, "Transnational Science and the Cold War. The Case of Chinese/American Scientists." Isis 2010 101: 367-377.

  • November 5, 2015

    Robin Scheffler at MIT lead a discussion of chapters 1, 4 and 6 of Doogab Yi's new book The Recombinant University: Genetic Engineering and the Emergence of Stanford Biotechnology (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

  • October 1, 2015

    We started the year by discussing Marwa Elshakry's Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

  • April 14, 2015

    Lijing Jiang, Postdoc, Nanyang Technological University introduced selections from Animals on Display (eds. Liv Emma Thorsen, Karen Rader, and Adam Dodd; Penn State University Press, 2013) with special guest participant Henry McGhie (Manchester Museum, UK).

  • March 10, 2015

    Jessica Linker of the University of Connecticut introduced selections from Daniela Bleichmar's Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment, U of Chicago Press, 2012, and presented some botanical images from her own project.

  • February 10, 2015

    Nicole Nelson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison introduced selections from Nicholas Rasmussen's Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise, JHU Press, 2014.

  • January 13, 2015

    Introductory Session: Participants introduced themselves and their work and offered suggestions for readings and topics for future meetings.

Group Membership