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Evelyn Fox Keller

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Title: Evelyn Fox Keller  
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Subject: Criticism of science, Feminist historians, Elisabeth Lloyd, Philosophy of biology, Sociobiology Study Group
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Evelyn Fox Keller

Evelyn Fox Keller
Born (1936-03-20)March 20, 1936
New York
Citizenship USA
Fields Physics, Molecular Biology, History and Philosophy of Modern Biology, Gender and Science
Alma mater Brandeis University(B.A.), Radcliffe College(M.A.), Harvard University(Ph.D.)[1]
Thesis "Photoinactivation and the Expression of Genetic Information in Bacteriophage-Lambda"[2] (1963)
Notable awards MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship

Evelyn Fox Keller (born March 20, 1936) is an American physicist, author[3] and feminist. She is currently Professor Emerita of History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[4] Keller's early work concentrated at the intersection of physics and biology. Her subsequent research has focused on the history and philosophy of modern biology and on gender and science.


  • Biography 1
  • Discussion of work 2
  • Published works 3
  • Awards and honors 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Keller received her B.A. in physics from Brandeis University in 1957 and continued her studies in theoretical physics at Harvard University graduating with a Ph.D. in 1963. She became interested in molecular biology during a visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory while completing her Ph.D. dissertation. Keller has also taught at Northeastern University, Cornell University, University of Maryland, Northwestern University, Princeton University, State University of New York at Purchase, New York University and in the department of rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.[1]

In 2007 Keller sat on the USA advisory board of FFIPP (Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-USA), a network of Palestinian, Israeli, and International faculty, and students, working for an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and just peace.[5]

Discussion of work

She first encountered feminism as a discipline while attending a conference entitled "Women and the Scientific Profession." At this conference, Erik Erikson and Bruno Bettelheim argued for more women in science based on the invaluable contributions a "specifically female genius" could make to science.[6] Four years later, in 1969, she compiled an array of data on the experiences of women scientists and put together an argument about women in (or out of) science, based on "women's nature." She had been feeling disenchantment from her colleague publishing her team's work and she had not realized the reason behind it until she did her research.

In 1974 Keller taught her first women's studies course. Shortly after, she was invited to give a series of lectures on her work. She had never shared her personal experiences of her story of how it was like for her as a woman becoming a scientist and this lecture marked the beginning of her work as a feminist critic of science. It raised three central questions that marked her research and writing over the next decade.[6]

One of her major works was a contribution to the book The Gender and Science Reader. Keller's article, entitled "Secrets of God, Nature, and Life" links issues in feminism back to the Scientific Revolution in the 17th Century and the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. In this work, she quotes Boyle. "It may seem an ingrateful and unfilial thing to dispute against nature, that is taken by mankind for the common parent of us all. But although it be as undutiful thing, to express a want of respect for an acknowledged parent, yet I know not, why it may not be allowable to question one, that a man looks upon but as a pretend one; and it appear to me, that she is so, I think it my duty to pay my gratitude, not to I know not what, but to that deity, whose wisdom and goodness...designed to make me a man (pg. 103). By Keller addressing Boyle's quote in this aspect, she alludes to how as soon as questionable aspects are displayed in nature, "nature" becomes "nature" and is then feminine.[6]

Evelyn Fox Keller has documented how the masculine-identified public sphere and the feminine-identified private sphere have structured thinking in two areas of evolutionary biology: population genetics and mathematical ecology. Her concern is to show how the selection process that occurs in the context of discovery limits what we come to know. Keller argues that the assumption that the atomistic individual is the fundamental unit in nature has led population geneticists to omit sexual reproduction from their models. Though the critique of misplaced individualism is nothing new, the gender dynamics Keller reveals are. According to Keller, geneticists treat reproduction as if individuals reproduce themselves, effectively bypassing the complexities of sexual difference, the contingencies of mating, and fertilization. She likens the biologists' atomistic individual to heuristic individual portrayed by mainstream Western political and economic theorists. Keller argues further that biologists use values ascribed to the public sphere of Western culture to depict relations between individuals (while values generally attributed to the private sphere to describe relations are confused to the interior of an individual organism.) [7]

Published works

  • 1983 A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock. Freeman ISBN 0-805-07458-9
  • 1985 Reflections on Gender and Science. Yale University Press ISBN 0-300-06595-7
  • 1989 Three cultures : fifteen lectures on the confrontation of academic cultures, The Hague : Univ. Pers Rotterdam
  • 1992 Secrets of Life/Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender and Science. Routledge
  • 1995 Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-century Biology. The Wellek Library Lecture Series at the University of California, Irvine. Columbia University Press ISBN 0-231-10205-4
  • 1998 Keywords in Evolutionary Biology (co-edited with Elisabeth Lloyd). Harvard University Press (reprinted 1998 ISBN 0-674-50313-9).
  • 2000 The Century of the Gene. Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-00825-1
  • 2002 Making Sense of Life : Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines. Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-01250-X
  • 2010 The Mirage of a Space between Nature and Nurture. Duke University Press ISBN 0-822-34731-8

Awards and honors


  1. ^ a b "Evelyn Fox Keller To Join STS Faculty". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 15 July 1992. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Yeghiayan, Eddie. "Evelyn Fox Keller, Dissertation". The Wellek Library Lectures for 1993. The Critical Theory Institute, University of California, Irvine. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Dean, Cornelia (April 12, 2005). "'"Theorist Drawn Into Debate 'That Will Not Go Away.  
  4. ^ "Evelyn Fox Keller MIT STS Faculty page". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Who is FFIPP - Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace". Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace. 2 December 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Muriel Lederman and Ingrid Bartsch (2001). The Gender and Science Reader. New York: Routledge. 
  7. ^ Schiebinger, Londa. Has Feminism Changed Science?. Harvard University Press. p. 155.  
  8. ^ "Distinguished Publication Award". Association for Women in Psychology. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Community of Scholars Profile". Institute for Advanced Study website. Institute for Advanced Study. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE Commencement Speakers 1987 - 1997". Mount Holyoke College Website. Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE Honorary Degrees by Year". Mount Holyoke College Website. Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "MacArthur Fellows Program - July 1992". MacArthur Foundation. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Eredoctoraten 1981-2000, University of Amsterdam, retrieved 9 February 2013 
  14. ^ "Honorary Doctors at Luleå University of Technology". Luleå University of Technology website. Luleå University of Technology. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "All Fellows - The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Wesleyan University Reunion and Commencement 2001". Wesleyan University. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship Program, Harvard University, retrieved 15 January 2013 
  18. ^ "Les Chaires Internationales de Recherche Blaise Pascal - 2005". English Edition - Blaise Pascal Research Chairs web page. Fondation de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure. 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "American Philosophical Society Member History". American Philosophical Society. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  20. ^ "Academy Members, 1780 - present" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2012. 
  21. ^ Haas, Genevieve (22 April 2008). "Dartmouth 2008 Honorary Degree Recipient Evelyn Fox Keller (Doctor of Science)". Dartmouth News. Dartmouth College. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  22. ^ Veres, Adrian; Bohannon, John (14 January 2011). "The Science Hall of Fame". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "John Desmond Bernal Prize". Society for Social Studies of Science. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 

External links

  • Homepage at MIT
  • Evelyn Fox Keller: Historical, Psychological and Philosophical Intersections in the Study of Gender and Science
  • Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution from the Jewish Women's Archive
  • Papers of Evelyn Fox Keller, 1966–2005 at Schlesinger Library, Harvard University
  • Evelyn Fox Keller at Library of Congress Authorities, with 14 catalog records
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