The Center for Biology and Society shined as ASU-affiliated researchers and alumni presented original research and led workshops at the 2017 History of Science Society meeting, held in Toronto, Ontario, from November 9th to the 12th.
Abraham Gibson, a new Postdoctoral Scholar in the Center for Biology and Society, kicked off the conference in one of the first sessions titled, In Captivity: Animal Models and Metaphors in the Modern Era. In that session, Gibson presented his paper “Neither Wild nor Tame: Feral Animals in the History of Biology,” alongside scholars from Harvard University, Indiana University, and Stanford University. Gibson elaborated on the history of feral animal populations as objects of study, how researchers have increasingly characterized feral animals as “invasive” pests who ought to be destroyed, and initiatives advocating for their protection.
On day two of the conference, PhD candidate Sean Cohmer presented his research, “Morganisms—Local Choice in Late 19th Century Biology, The Case of Thomas Hunt Morgan” as a part of the session Choices and Challenges in 19th and 20th Century Genetics, with other scholars from the University of Leeds, Rutgers University, and the National University of Quilmes. In his presentation, Cohmer described how Morgan’s use of over 30 different organisms in his work at the Marine Biological Laboratory in the late 19th century is illustrative of the way scientists used to choose their research organisms based on locality prior to the emergence of scientifically sanctioned “model organisms” that arose in the early 20th century.
Following Cohmer’s presentation, Center Director Jane Maienschein participated in a roundtable discussion, “On Writing: Craft and Profession.” Maienschein joined panelists from Michigan State University, the University of Toronto, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Cambridge. Each participant discussed techniques and strategies for writing beyond academic journals, so that historical expertise reaches wider and more diverse audiences. Maienschein talked about how the digital Embryo Project Encyclopedia trains history of science ambassadors who learn to communicate topics within discipline expressly for public audiences.
Later that afternoon, PhD candidate Paige Madison shared a session with CBS alum Kate MacCord, who is currently at the Marine Biological Laboratory. They presented papers in a session titled, “The Roles of Assumptions in Shaping the History of Science,” which one attendee declared the best session they had ever attended at HSS. Madison and MacCord were joined by presenter Elizabeth Jones from the University College London, and session chair Michael Ruse of Florida State University. Kate MacCord discussed how assumptions entrenched within the scientific worldviews of a handful of paleontologists and embryologists at the end of the 19th century led to heated debate over how to explain the morphological evolution of mammal teeth. While Paige Madison examined how geographical and cultural assumptions about the human family tree impacted the acceptance of Africa as the source of human ancestry in the mid 20th century.
The following day, CBS alum Julia Lessios-Damerow led a workshop on “Software Development in the History of Science,” alongside Stephen Weldon of the University of Oklahoma. The hour and a half long workshop introduced participants to topics such as software development methodologies, infrastructure requirements, personnel requirements, software development project management, and sustainability considerations—with the goal of helping researchers better understand the logistical constraints of integrating digital methods into their history of science research.
More Information: Center for Biology and Society, 480-965-8927