Scientific Biography

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Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man,” wrote Twain, “the biography of the man himself cannot be written.” In this chapter, with due deference to Twain, I examine how scientific biographies – of both men and women – have been written historically, ever since the Greeks, and how they have evolved over time, in and out of step with the history of science. Notions of truth, objectivity, and the role of science in society are reflected in biography, as are literary fashions, rendering biography a valuable prism through which to evaluate our ever-changing cultural mores and norms. So, too, are biographers here examined, to consider the alchemy between subject and portrayer. To what uses have biographies been made? Is biography writing an art or a craft? And what will be its future? These and other questions are addressed in this historiography of “scientific biography.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Historiography of Biology
EditorsM.R. Dietrich, M.E Borrello, O. Harman
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-90119-0
StatePublished - 8 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameHistoriographies of Science


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