Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1968-1969
Yale University, BA, 1972, History, the Arts, and Letters
Indiana University, MA, 1972
Indiana University, PhD, 1978, History and Philosophy of Science
My research focuses on the history and philosophy of biology, especially developmental biology and in particular most recently focused on the history of regenerative biology. Long ago, my dissertation looked at the work of Ross Harrison, a long-time Trustee of the MBL, who carried out the first ever tissue culture and first ever stem cell experiment. His 1907 study of neuroblasts transplanted into frog lymph culture set the foundations for subsequent stem cell, tissue culture, and related research. My first NSF grant was a dissertation improvement grant that took me to the MBL to replicate historic experiments, and my dissertation involved repeating Harrison’s work. Six weeks at the MBL were exciting, introducing me to embryology, experimental methods, the MBL, and the way that underlying assumptions shape the way research is done. In Harrison’s case, it turns out that he used aseptic techniques borrowed from bacteriology and not recorded in his publications. Since then, my research has asked about th way that underlying assumptions shape science. To date, this research has been supported by NSF, with publications in the form of books and articles.
More recently, I have two major projects. The first is my own research, which has led to a book with Harvard University Press forthcoming this spring. It actually discusses the Bell Center and some of Bell’s work, and it looks in more detail about Thomas Hunt Morgan’s study of regeneration. The next book, under contract with Harvard Press, will be co-authored and look at how we “see” biological systems. That, too, will include exploration of regeneration in biology.
The second project relates to the MBL most directly and involves building a digital archives. This work, in connection with the MBL Archives, brought two graduate students last year and will bring five this year to help digitize, edit, archive, and publish collected materials. In effect, I am trying to share with my graduate students the excitement of discovery that I had as a student at the MBL. We will be developing a set of online “exhibits” that pull together existing materials and interpreting them. This work will benefit from formal connection with the Bell Center, since all the students are working on topics at the intersections of history, philosophy, development, molecular biology, and evolution.
Regents’ Professor, President’s Professor, and Parents Association Professor
Center for Biology and Society
School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University