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The Great Disruption: Biologists, Revolutions, and the Values of Science ca. 1848

February 21, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Portrait image of Lynn Nyhart wearing a red shirt and large necklace

2018 Focus on the Humanities Distinguished Faculty Lecture:

Lynn K. Nyhart

Vilas-Bablitch-Kelch Distinguished Achievement Professor History of Science, UW-Madison


In the German-speaking states of the 1840s and 50s, revolution was in the air. While the political revolutions of 1848-49 are best known, the life sciences were undergoing their own revolutions, marked by radical new ideas about the organization and transformations of living beings. This talk focuses on a cluster of leading life scientists of the period to examine their participation in the events of this era, both political and intellectual. Through these disruptions, Nyhart argues, scientists came to articulate and enact new models for the relationship of the scientist to political action—models that continue to have force today.


Lynn K. Nyhart studies the history of biology in the modern (post-1789) era, as well as the relations between popular and professional science, and the politics of science, especially in nineteenth-century Germany. The author of Biology Takes Form and Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany, she is most recently co-editor, with Scott Lidgard of Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives (2017). They are currently working on a history of concepts of biological part-whole relations in the nineteenth century.


February 21, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room L140
800 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States