Soraya de Chadarevian


(310) 267-4767

Life Sciences Building 3323C

PhD in Philosophy, University of Konstanz, Germany
Advanced degree (Diplom) in Biology, University of Freiburg, Germany

Soraya de Chadarevian is Professor in the Department of History and the Institute for Society and Genetics. She is a historian of science, technology and medicine with background in biology and philosophy. Her main area of interest are the life sciences in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Her research has been supported by numerous grants, including most recently by a scholar award from the National Science Foundation (2015-2021). She has held fellowships and visiting appointments at the Walther Rathenau Program and the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin; at La Villette and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris; at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research; at Churchill College Cambridge and at the Institute for Advances Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. Before joining the faculty at UCLA, she was a senior research associate and affiliated lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge (1991-2006) where she keeps the status of an affiliated scholar.

She is interested in the material and visual practices in the life 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 molecular biology and the complex scientific, institutional, political and cultural processes that contributed to the development of the new science with its broad implications for our understanding of the production and reproduction of life. Her publications on this topic include the monograph Designs for Life: Molecular Biology after World War II (Cambridge 2002; 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); three co-edited journal issues as well as numerous articles and book chapters. Other publications include the co-edited volume Models: The Third Dimension of Science (Stanford 2004) and a book on the philosophy of the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Pont (Zwischen den Diskursen, 1990). More recently, she has published on the use of genetic evidence in history, on questions of the archives, on genetic studies of human populations, and on histories of data and the database.

Her most recent monograph Heredity under the Microscope: Chromosomes and the Study of the Human Genome (Chicago 2020) is a study of the postwar history of human heredity, told from the vantage point of chromosomes. Today chromosomes are understood as macromolecular assemblies and are analyzed with a variety of molecular techniques. Yet for much of the twentieth century, researchers studied chromosomes looking down the microscope. Making space for microscope-based next to molecular approaches to human heredity, the book investigates the many fields – from radiobiology and toxicology to cancer research, clinical diagnosis, gender testing, criminology and the study of human populations – where genetic explanations where taken up or resisted. By following chromosomes and the images that traveled with them, the book sheds new light on how genetic evidence gained prominence in the atomic age and beyond.

She teaches courses on genetics and society and on science as a way of knowing at ISG as well as introductory and advanced history of science, technology and medicine courses for undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of History.



Heredity under the Microscope: Chromosomes and the Study of the Human Genome (University of Chicago Press, July 2020).

Models. The Third Dimension of Science, co-edited with N. Hopwood (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2004).

Representations of the Double Helix (with Harmke Kamminga); revised and enlarged edition with new introduction by S. de Chadarevian (Cambridge: Whipple Museum for the History of Science, 2002). First published 1995 [Exhibition catalogue].

Designs for Life. Molecular Biology after World War II (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2002; reprinted 2003; e-paperback 2011).

Molecularizing Biology and Medicine: New Practices and Alliances, 1910s–1970s, co-edited with H. Kamminga (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers 1998)

Zwischen den Diskursen. Maurice Merleau-Ponty und die Wissenschaften (Würzburg: Könighausen und Neumann 1990).

Special issues

Histories of Data and the Database.” Special issue, guest-edited with T. Porter, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48:5 (2018) 549-556.

Introduction: “Introduction: Scrutinizing the Data World”

“Heredity and the Study of Human Populations After 1945.” Special issue, guest-edited with J. Bangham, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47 (2014) 45-190.

Introduction: “Human heredity after 1945: Moving populations centre stage”

 “BioHistories,” guest-edited special issue. BioSocieties 5:3 (Sept 2010) 301-405.

“Disciplinary histories and the history of disciplines: the challenge of molecular biology.” Special issue, co-edited with H.-J. Rheinberger. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40:1 (2009) 1-71.


“Molecular Biology in Postwar Europe.” Special issue, co-edited with B. Strasser, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33:3 (2002).

Introduction: “Molecular biology in postwar Europe: towards a ‘glocal’ picture”

“The Tools of the Discipline: Biochemists and Molecular Biologists.” Special issue, co-edited with J.-P. Gaudillière, Journal of the History of Biology 26:3 (1996).


Selected articles and book chapters

“Normalization and the search for variation in the human genome,” in: Southern Oceanic Topologies and Genealogies. Special issue edited by W. Anderson and S. Lindee. /Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences /50 (2020), 578–595.

“Things and Data in Recent biology,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48:5 (2018) 648-658.

“Whose turn? Chromosome Research and the Study of the Human Genome,” Journal of the History of Biology 51:4 (2018) 631-655.

“John Kendrew and myoglobin: Protein structure determination in the 1950s,” Protein Science 27 (2018) 1136-1143.

 “‘It is not enough, in order to understand the Book of Nature, to turn over the pages looking at the pictures. Painful though it may be, it will be necessary to learn to read the text:’ Visual Evidence in the Life Sciences, c. 1960,” in: B. Bock von Wuelfingen (ed.), Traces. Generating What Was There (Berlin: De Gruyter 2017) 55-64.

“Ode to the ice bucket,” in: J. Radin and E. Kowal (eds.), Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2017) 83-88.

“The future historian: Reflections on the archives of contemporary science,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 55 (2016) 54-60.

“Human population studies and the World Health Organization,” Dynamis 35:2 (2015) 359-388.

“Monod as founder of a new discipline: Local and international contexts,” Comptes rendus – Biologies 338:6 (2015) 419-423.

“Chromosome Photography and the Human Karyotype,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 45:1 (2015) 115-146.

“Chromosome surveys of human populations: Between epidemiology and anthropology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47 (2014) 87-96.

“Putting Human Genetics on a Solid Basis: Human Chromosome Research, 1950s-1970s,” in B. Gausemeier, S.Müller-Wille, E. Ramsden (eds.), Human Heredity in the Twentieth Century (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013) 141-152.

“Things and the archives of recent sciences,” Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44:4 (2013) 634-638.

“Epistemology and History,” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 35:1 (2013) 13-18.

“The Making of an Entrepreneurial Science: Biotechnology in Britain, 1975-1995,” Isis 102:4 (2011) 601-633.

“The comparative and the exemplary: revisiting the early history of molecular biology,” (with B. Strasser), History of Science 49 (2011) 317-336.

 “Microstudies versus big picture accounts?” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40:1 (2009) 13-19.

The Selfish Gene at 30: the origin and career of a book and its title,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society 61 (2007) 31–38.

 “Rosalind Franklin e i suoi difensori,” in E. Gagliasso and F. Zucco (eds), Il genere nel paesaggio scientifico (Roma: Aracne editrice, 2007) 89-107.

“Mice and the Reactor: The ‘Genetics Experiment’ in 1950s Britain,” Journal of the History of Biology 39 (2006) 707–735.

“Asilomar — ein Moratorium und was daraus geworden ist,” Gegenworte 16 (December 2005) 74–77.

“Mapping the worm’s genome: tools, networks, patronage,” in J.-P. Gaudillière and H.-J. Rheinberger (eds.), Mapping Cultures in Twentieth Century Genetics (London: Routledge 2004) 95–110.

“Models and the making of molecular biology,” in: S. de Chadarevian and N. Hopwood (eds.), Models. The Third Dimension of Science (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2004) 339–368.

[in German] “Modelle und die Entstehung der Molekularbiologie,” in: C. Blümle and A. Schäfer (eds.) Struktur, Figur, Kontur. Abstraktion in Kunst und Lebenswissenschaften (Zürich and Berlin: Diaphanes 2007) 173-197.

“Helix überall. Über den Karrierebeginn einer Wissenschaftsikone,” Neue Rundschau 114:3 (2003) 69–74.

“Relics, replicas and commemorations,” Endeavour 27:2 (2003) 75–79.

“Portrait of a Discovery: Watson, Crick, and the Double Helix,” Isis 94 (2003) 90–105.

“Reconstructing life. Molecular biology in postwar Britain,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33:3 (2002) 431–448.

“Mapping development or how molecular is molecular biology?” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 22:3 (2000) 335–350.

“Protein sequencing and the making of molecular genetics,Trends in the Biochemical Sciences 24 (1999) 203–206. Reprinted in: J. Witkowski (ed.), The Inside Story: DNA to RNA to Protein. Readings from Trends in Biochemical Sciences (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press 2004) 345–353.

 “Of Worms and programmes: Caenorhabditis elegans and the study of development,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences 29:1 (1998) 81–105.

“Following molecules: hemoglobin between the clinic and the laboratory,” in S. de Chadarevian and H. Kamminga (eds.), Molecularizing Biology and Medicine. New Practices and Alliances, 1910s–1970s (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers 1998) 171–201.

“Using interviews for writing the history of science,” in T. Söderqvist (ed.), The Historiography of Contemporary Science and Technology (London: Harwood Academic Publishers 1997) 51–70.

“Internationale Wissenschaft und die Ökonomie wissenschaftlicher Kommunikation – Überlegungen im Anschluß an Marey’s ‘La méthode graphique’ (1878) und Bernals ‘The Social Function of Science’ (1939),” in C. Meinel (ed.), Fachschrifttum, Bibliothek und Naturwissenschaft im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1997) 125–135.

“Sequences, Conformation, Information: Biochemists and Molecular Biologists in the 1950s,” Journal of the History of Biology 29 (1996) 361–386.

[in Spanish] “Secuencias, conformación, información: bioquímicos y biólogos moleculares en los años 50,” Arbor 156:614 (1997) 15–44.

“Laboratory Science versus Country-House Experiments. The Controversy between Julius Sachs and Charles Darwin,” British Journal for the History of Science 29:1 (1996) 17–41. [Japanese translation in Newsletter of the Japanese Society for Plant Physiology 43:11 (2002) 51–82.]

“Illustrations, instruments, skills, and laboratories in nineteenth-century German botany,” in R. Mazzolini (ed.), Non-Verbal Communication in Science Prior to 1900 (Florence: Olschki 1993) 529–562 (revised German translation “Sehen und Aufzeichnen in der Botanik des 19. Jahrhunderts,” in M. Wetzler and H. Wolf (eds.), Visuelle Realitäten (München: Fink Verlag 1994) 121-144.

“Graphical method and discipline: Self-recording instruments in nineteenth-century physiology,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 24:2 (1993) 267–291.

[in German] “Die ‘Methode der Kurven’ in der Physiologie zwischen 1850 und 1900,” in: Michael Hagner and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (eds.), Die Experimentalisierung des Lebens. Experimentalsysteme in den biologischen Wissenschaften 1850/1950 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1993) 28–49.

[Reprinted in] M. Hagner (ed.), Ansichten der Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuchverlag 2001) 161–188.

“Lokales Wissen und standardisierte Praktiken. Vernunftkritische Überlegungen zu neueren Ansätzen in der Wissenschaftsgeschichte,” in C. Menke and M. Seel (eds.), Zur Verteidigung der Vernunft gegen ihre Liebhaber und Verächter (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1993) 66–83.

Experimente mit der Evolution (with A. Dally and R. Kollek) (Freiburg: Öko-Institut 1991).

“Die Auflösung der cartesianischen Begriffswelt. Zur literarischen Form bei Merleau-Ponty,” in G. Gabriel and C. Schildknecht (eds.),