Erik L. Peterson

Erik L. Peterson

Associate Professor


  • PhD, University of Notre Dame, 2010


Research Interests

  • Transatlantic History of Science, especially biology and anthropology in UK, France, Germany, and USA
  • Eugenics and Social Darwinism
  • The Scientific Concept of Race
  • Science and Popular Culture
  • Biology Education & Textbooks

Courses Taught

  • History of Science 1—Antiquity to Newtonianism (HY 115)
  • History of Science 2—Gravity to Quarks (HY 116)
  • Race & Science (HY 345)
  • Epidemics! A History of Medicine (HY 346)
  • A Global History of Gaming (HY 307)
  • The Darwinian Revolution (HY 455)

Awards and Honors

  • Distinguished Teaching Fellow, University of Alabama (2017-2020)
  • Outstanding Student Advisor Award, University of Alabama (2015)
  • Honored Instructor Award, University of Wisconsin – Madison (2011)
  • National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, SES-0849138 (2009 – 2010)
  • University of Notre Dame, Zahm Research Grant (2008)

Selected Publications


Under Development

  • with James Bindon (Professor Emeritus of Anthropology), One or Many? An Episodic History of Science & Race Since Christopher Columbus (expected 2020).
  • Darwin Versus Chesterton: Race, Immigration, Eugenics, and the Battle for the Soul of Science (expected 2021).
  • (editing) History and Philosophy of Science, Current Debates; Vol. 3, 1750-1900 (Bloomsbury)

Edited Volumes

  • with Kostas Kampourakis, “Mendel, Mendelism and Education: 150 years since the ‘Versuche’,” Science & Education 24 (1&2) Berlin: Springer, 2015: 1-228. (University of Geneva, Switzerland) DOI: 10.1007/S11191-014-9722-X

Articles & Book Chapters

  • with Crystal Hall, “‘What is Dead May Not Die’: Locating Implicit Concepts Regarding the Nature of Life Among Ordinary Biologists,” Journal of the History of Biology (forthcoming, 2019).
  • “Can Scientific Knowledge Sift the Wheat from the Tares? A Brief History of Bias in Science,” in What is Scientific Knowledge? An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology of Science, eds. K. McCain and K. Kampourakis (Routledge, 2019).
  • “Race and Evolution in Antebellum Alabama: the Polygenist Prehistory We’d Rather Ignore,” in Evolution Education in the American South, eds. W. Evans, C. Lynn, A. Glaze, and L. Reed (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
  • with Kostas Kampourakis, “The Paradigmatic Mendel at the Sesquicentennial of ‘Versuche über Pflantzen-Hybriden’,” Science & Education 24 (1&2) 2015: 1-8.
  • “The Conquest of Vitalism or the Eclipse of Organicism? The 1930s Cambridge Organiser Project and the Social Network of Mid-Twentieth-Century Biology,” The British Journal for the History of Science 47 (2) 2014: 281-304. DOI: 10.1017/S0007087413000435
  • “The Excluded Philosophy of Evo-Devo? Revisiting Waddington’s Failed Attempt to Embed Alfred North Whitehead’s ‘Organicism’ in Evolutionary Biology,” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 (4) 2011: 301-320.
  • “William Bateson from Balanoglossus to Materials for the Study of Variation: the Transatlantic Roots of Discontinuity and the (Un)naturalness of Selection,” Journal of the History of Biology 41 (2) 2008: 267–305.

Encyclopedia Articles

  • with Daniel J. McKaughan, “Methodological Naturalism” in New Catholic Encyclopedia (Suppl. 2012-13: Ethics and Philosophy). Robert Fastiggi, et al., eds. (Detroit: Gale-Cengage Learning and the Catholic University of America Press, 2013).

Book Reviews

  • Review of Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as Metaphor by Susan Merrill Squier, Isis 109 (2018): 667-668,
  • Review of Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud by Nick Hopwood, The American Historical Review 122 (2017): 1302–1303,
  • “Beware the Geno-hype; or, How To Discuss Scientific Epistemology With Those Who Ignore It.” Review of Tales of the Ex-Apes: How We Think About Human Evolution by Jonathan Marks, Science & Education 25 (2016): 691–696, doi:10.1007/s11191-016-9837-3.
  • “The Baubles of Biotech; or, That’s the Spirit.” Review of The Gene Jockeys by Nicolas Rasmussen, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 54 (2015): 124-26.
  • Review of The Universe Within, by Neil Shubin. Books & Culture (published online: print: October 2013).
  • Review of Mutation: the History of an Idea from Darwin to Genomics, by Elof Axel Carlson. Science & Education (May 2013).
  • Review of The Egg and Sperm Race: the Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unravelled the Secrets of Sex, Life, and Growth, by Matthew Cobb. Science & Education (2012 / doi: 10.1007/s11191-011-9375-y).
  • Review of Evolution: the History of an Idea, 25th Anniversary Edition, by Peter J. Bowler. Science & Education (2011): 557–62.