1st Edition

The History and Poetics of Scientific Biography

ISBN 9781138264793
Published February 27, 2017 by Routledge
286 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

Biographies of scientists carry an increasingly prominent role in today's publishing climate. Traditional historical and sociological accounts of science are complemented by narratives that emphasize the importance of the scientific subject in the production of science. Not least is the realization that the role of science in culture is much more accessible when presented through the lives of its practitioners. Taken as a genre, such biographies play an important role in the public understanding of science. In recent years there has been an increasing number of monographs and collections about biography in general and literary biography in particular. However, biographies of scientists, engineers and medical doctors have rarely been the topic of scholarly inquiry. As such this volume of essays will be welcomed by those interested in the genre of science biography, and who wish to re-examine its history, foundational problems and theoretical implications. Borrowing approaches and methods from cultural studies and the history, philosophy and sociology of science, the contributions cover a broad range of subjects, periods and locations. By presenting such a rich diversity of essays, the volume is able to chart the reoccurring conceptual problems and devices that have influenced scientific biographies from classical antiquity to the present day. In so doing it provides a compelling overview of the history of the genre, suggesting that the different valuations given scientific biography over time have been largely fuelled by vested professional interests.

Table of Contents

Contents: Series editor's preface; Preface; Introduction: A new look at the genre of scientific biography, Thomas Söderqvist; Presenting a 'life' as a guide to living: ancient accounts of the life of Pythagoras, Liba Taub; Biography as a route to understanding early modern natural philosophy, Stephen Gaukroger; Neither genius nor context incarnate: Norman Lockyer, Jules Janssen and the astrophysical self, David Aubin and Charlotte Bigg; Framing the evidence: scientific biography and portraiture, Patricia Fara; Biography and the reward system in science, Thomas L. Hankins; The tragedy of Comrade Hessen: biography as historical discourse, Christopher A.J. Chilvers; Received wisdom in biography: Tycho biographies from Gassendi to Christianson, Helge Kragh; The programmatic function of biography: readings of 19- and 20th-century biographies of Niels Stensen (Steno), Signe Lindskov Hansen; Discriminating days? Partiality and impartiality in 19th-century biographies of Newton, Rebekah Higgitt; Biographies as mediators between memory and history in science, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent; 'La mauvaise herbe': unwanted biographies both great and small, Jacalyn Duffin; Primary suspects: reflections on autobiography and life stories in the history of molecular biology, Rena Selya; Pas de deux: the biographer and the living biographical subject, Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis; Resuscitating the 'Great Doctor': the career of biography in medical history, Beth Linker; 'No genre of history fell under more odium than that of biography': the delicate relations between scientific biography and historiography of science, Thomas Söderqvist; Index.

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Thomas Söderqvist is Professor for History of Medicine and Director of Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


’The book will be a great addition to medical history courses, especially those which encourage students to explore the theme of biography. Confronted with just a couple of these excellent essays in a seminar, students, if not their lecturers, might begin to engage critically with some of the thousands of under-used medical biographies that currently sit on book shelves and in university libraries.’ Social History of Medicine ’This is a valuable, theoretically informed and yet empirically dense, set of essays which produce a remarkably coherent critical effect. ...so much of the volume deals with scientific lives from the wider European continent and the United States that the volume has a genuinely international reach and appeal.’ David Amigoni, Keele University, in British Society for Literature and Science