Hannah Landecker – A Short History of Metabolism, From the Age of Industry to the Epigenetic Present

landecker-smE.B. Wilson History and Philosophy of Science Lecture
“A Short History of Metabolism, From the Age of Industry to the Epigenetic Present”

Hannah Landecker, University of California, Los Angeles

Friday, June 30, 2017, 8 – 9pm
Lillie Auditorium
Lectures are free and open to the public.
Livestreaming at videocenter.mbl.edu.

INTRODUCER: Jennifer Morgan, Director, Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering, MBL


The concept of metabolism came into life science in the mid-nineteenth century, and even now bears the imprint of its origins in an era of factory production and the harnessing of chemical reactions in the service of human industry. Today, intensive research into metabolic disorders and cancer metabolism is making us rethink this classic concept. This talk compares past and present, first by exploring the history of metabolism beginning in 1839 with Theodor Schwann’s writings on cell theory, and then tracing the subsequent rise and separation of the gene and the calorie in the twentieth century. Finally, we will explore how this historical perspective can inform our understanding of the scientific and social significance of recent developments in chromatin biology and the science of the microbiome emerging in the pursuit of metabolic health.

Hannah Landecker holds a joint appointment in the life and social sciences at UCLA, where she is a Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Institute for Society and Genetics. The Institute for Society and Genetics is an interdisciplinary unit at UCLA committed to cultivating research and pedagogy at the interface of the life and human sciences, and houses the Human Biology and Society undergraduate major. Landecker, a historian and sociologist of science, studied cell and developmental biology before going on to receive her PhD in Science and Technology Studies from MIT in 2000. She is the author of Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies (Harvard UP, 2007), which won the Suzanne J. Levinson Prize for best book in the history of the life sciences from the History of Science Society, as well as many articles on the history of cell biology spanning topics from the development of time-lapse microcinematography to the tale of chemically defined media in the twentieth century. Recently her research, supported by the National Science Foundation and the American Council for Learned Societies, has turned toward the history and social study of metabolism and epigenetics, and this talk is drawn from her current book project, American Metabolism.

About the E.B. Wilson History and Philosophy of Science Lecture

The E.B. Wilson History and Philosophy of Science Lecture is given annually on a topic relevant to the history and/or philosophy of science. The Wilson Lecture was endowed in 2014 by Richard Creath and Jane Maienschein, MBL Fellow, and is named in honor of Edmund Beecher Wilson, a pioneering cytologist and geneticist and one of the MBL’s earliest investigators and instructors. Wilson remained affiliated with the MBL as a researcher and trustee throughout his life.