Evelyn Fox Keller bigraphy, stories - American physicist

Evelyn Fox Keller : biography

20 March 1936 -

Evelyn Fox Keller (born March 20, 1936, New York) is an American physicist, author and feminist. She is currently Professor Emerita of History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 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.


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.

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.

Awards and honors

  • 1986 Distinguished Publication Award, from the Association for Women in Psychology
  • 1987-1988 Member, Institute for Advanced Studies
  • 1991 Mount Holyoke College, Commencement Speaker
 and Honorary Degree Recipient (Doctor of Humane Letters)  
  • 1992 MacArthur Fellowship - also called the Genius Grant
  • 1993 University of Amsterdam, Honorary Doctorate Recipient
  • 1996 Luleå University of Technology, Honorary Degree Recipient (Doctor of Technology)
  • 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 2001 Wesleyan University, Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Recipient
  • 2004-2005 Radcliffe Institute Fellow
  • 2005 Appointed to the Blaise Pascal Research Chair by the Préfecture de la Région D'Ile-de-France
  • 2006 Elected Member of the American Philosophical Society
  • 2007 Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2008 Dartmouth 2008 Honorary Degree Recipient (Doctor of Science)
  • 2011 Science Hall of Fame

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. 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 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.

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 diety, 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.

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
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