Jane Maienschein

Who am I?

I am the Director of the Center for Biology and Society, a University Professor, Regents’ Professor, and President’s Professor at Arizona State University. Beginning in 2011, my Arizona State University position expanded to developing collaborative efforts with the MBL, which includes my becoming an MBL Fellow.


What do I do?

With a background in classical embryology, I work on history and philosophy of developmental biology in my scholarly research. In addition, I have worked as science advisor to Congressman Matt Salmon, provided educational seminars for the Federal Judicial Center’s Education Programs, and served as journal editor and president of several professional societies. Science has a major role for the public interest, and my work involves exploring the intersections of life sciences and society. The Embryo Project Encyclopedia includes a seminar every semester that runs as a writer’s workshop and editorial research system that provides an open access publication which receives over 2 million page views a year and is cited by high impact biology journals and used by teachers and the public. Another project, with Karl Matlin, is NSF-funded to explore the history of synthetic cell biology.

Why do I come to the MBL?

My first experience at the MBL came with a dissertation improvement grant in 1976, to reproduce classic experiments and observations. I fell in love with the place and the people, and, with the Centennial in 1988, began organizing an annual History of Biology seminar with Garland Allen. That special topics course continues, now funded by Arizona State University. We have also run a number of other workshops, especially exploring history and philosophy of developmental and cell biology, funded largely by NSF and the Webster Foundation. The MBL’s rich history of innovative ideas, creative people, and stimulating courses provides fascinating examples of science at work. History and Philosophy of Science can help uncover underlying assumptions and probe alternative perspectives in ways that can help make science better.

What do I do/work on at the MBL

Along with project manager Kate MacCord, I ran the MBL History Project, that involved a lab of graduate students from Arizona State University to explore archival materials, conduct interviews, and develop digital exhibits to present MBL history to a broader public. The digital archives include 1000s of photographs, archival materials, and a YouTube channel of interviews with MBL scientists and community members. The results now reside in the WHOAS repository.

Most recently, Kate and I co-direct a large project funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation exploring understanding of regeneration in the context of systems failure, across scales of life.

More information:

See Jane’s website: https://sols.asu.edu/people/jane-maienschein

Other related links:

Arizona State University Center for Biology and Society
HPS Repository
History of the Marine Biological Laboratory

Books written by and about the MBL:

Why Study Biology by the Sea?, edited with Karl Matlin and Rachel Ankeny (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2020)

The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation, edited with Ben Minteer and James Collins (University of Chicago Press, 2018)

Visions of Cell Biology: Reflections on Cowdry’s General Cytology, edited with Karl Matlin and Manfred Laubichler (University of Chicago Press, 2018)

Embryos Under the Microscope: Diverging Meanings of Life (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Whose View of Life? Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells (Harvard University Press, 2003; paperback 2005. Finalist for Independent Publishers Award). Arabic Translation, 2014

Transforming Traditions in American Developmental Biology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991)

100 Years Exploring Life. An Autobiography of the Marine Biological Laboratory (Jones and Bartlett Press, 1989) (edited)

Defining Biology. Lectures From the 1890s (Harvard University Press, 1986)