Monthly Archives: October 2020

13 November 2020 — 12:00 noon — online

John Wallingford (UT–Molecular Biosciences)

“Reconsidering Buddhist Embryology as Science History”

It has not gone unnoticed in recent times that the history of science is heavily Eurocentric. A striking example can be found in the history of developmental biology, the science of embryonic development. Textbooks and popular science writing frequently trace an intellectual thread from Aristotle through a small handful of 19th century German pioneers to 20th century genetics and 21st century genomics. Few historians and fewer still biologists are aware, however, of the depth and breadth of early embryological thinking outside of Europe. Here, I provide a series of vignettes highlighting the rich history of embryological thinking in early Asia. The impact of this body of thought on the “development” of modern developmental biology is unclear, but I contend that because culture shapes our thinking, these early Asian studies have significant implications for the modern practice. My goal is to provide an entertaining, even provocative, synopsis of an important but understudied topic, with the hope that this work will spur others to more thorough investigations.


John Wallingford holds the William and Gwyn Shive Endowed Professorship in UT’s Department of Molecular Biosciences. His work combines in vivo imaging with systems biology to explore the cell biological basis of embryonic development. He also has a strong interest in the history of embryology and associated sciences.


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16 October 2020 — 12:00 noon — online

Sumit Guha (History Department)

“Society and Information in Writing the History of Disease”

Sumit Guha’s interest in disease history originated in his study of demography. He has published on disease mortality in Victorian England in “The Importance of Social Intervention in England’s Mortality Decline,” Social History of Medicine  7,1 (1994), 89-113. His earlier work on South Asia is compiled in Health and Population in South Asia (2001/2009).

This talk, “Society and Information in Writing the History of Disease,” draws on “India in the Pandemic Age,” recently published in Indian Economic Review. The latter originated in a request from the Review to write a historical essay that would preface a more contemporary special issue of the journal. It was also written in a couple of weeks, when libraries were closed.

Addressing an audience of economists, the article tried to tease out the historical processes that produce the data series utilized by medicine and the sciences. I will present some of these larger epistemological problems in the talk.


Sumit Guha holds the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Professorship in the UT History Department. He is the author of The Agrarian Economy of the Bombay Deccan 1818-1941 (1985), Environment and Ethnicity in India, c. 1200-1991 (1999), Health and Population in South Asia from earliest times to the present (2001), and Beyond Caste: Identityand Power in South Asia, Past and Present (2013). His most recent book, History and Collective Memory in South Asia, 1200–2000, was published by University of Washington Press in 2019.

Register in advance for this meeting:  

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.