Professor Soraya de Chadarevian


Home Institution: UCLA

Dates: June 2017

Bio: Soraya de Chadarevian is a Professor in the Department of History and the Institute for Society and Genetics at the University of California Los Angeles. Her  research focuses on the biological and biomedical sciences from the 19th century to the present, with special interest in the post-World War Two period. She has a background in biology and philosophy as well as the history of science, technology and medicine. 

She is interested in the material practices of the biomedical sciences and the place of these sciences in the broader culture as well as in historiographical issues. She has worked extensively on the history of the molecular life sciences. Her publications on this topic include the monograph Designs for Life: Molecular Biology after World War II (Cambridge 2002; reprinted 2003; paperback 2011); the exhibition catalogue Representations of the Double Helix (Whipple Museum 2002); the co-edited volume Molecularizing Biology and Medicine: New Strategies and Alliances, 1910s-1970s (Harwood 1998) as well as numerous articles and book chapters. Other publications include the co-edited volume Models: The Third Dimension of Science (Stanford 2004). Currently she is working on an NSF funded  project on the history of human chromosomes, the cellular structures carrying genetic information.

Project: While at IASH Dr de Chadarevian will continue working on her book manuscript with the working title Heredity under the Microscope: A History of Human Chromosomes.  In historical accounts of postwar genetics molecular biology has taken much of the limelight. And yet, in the postwar era the microscope-based study of human chromosomes was a high-profile subject that promised to provide answers to urgent scientific, medical and political questions. Following human chromosomes and the techniques and images that came packaged with them the study reconstructs where human heredity mattered and genetic knowledge was embraced, debated, and rejected. At the same time the study aims to provide an integrated account of the history of postwar genetics by considering the place of microscopical practices next to molecular approaches in the postwar quest to study and harness heredity. This includes a reflection on the role of visual evidence in the construction and validation of biological knowledge.

As part of her stay at IASH Dr de Chadarevian, together with colleagues at STIS, is also co-organizing a workshop on the history of genetics in Edinburgh. The workshop aims to explore what, if anything, might have been distinctive in the way genetic research (broadly construed to include animal breeding, clinical genetics and molecular genetics) developed in the city.