Erik L. Peterson

Associate Professor
Associate Provost, Office of Academic Affairs


  • PhD, University of Notre Dame, 2010

Research Areas

  • History of Race
  • European History


Research Interests

  • History & Philosophy of Science & Medicine
  • Race science, Social Darwinism, & eugenics
  • Evolution, Genetics, & Epigenetics
  • Biology Education in the USA, UK, and Europe
  • Victorian/Edwardian UK & Gilded Age/Progressive Era US

Current Projects

  • In development (expected 2028). Darwin vs. Chesterton vs. Wells: Who Killed British Eugenics?
  • Under contract (expected 2025). History & Philosophy of Science, Key Reflections; Part III: Late Enlightenment / Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century (1750 to 1900). New York: Bloomsbury (with E. Crull, City University of New York).
  • Under contract (expected 2024). The Shortest History of Eugenics. New York: The Experiment.
  • In production (expected 2023). Understanding Charles Darwin. Cambridge Understanding Life series. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Speaking of Race“–the interdisciplinary podcast about the history of race & science.
  • A Deeper Sickness online: the Digital Museum of the Pandemic Year, 2020.

Courses Taught

  • Foundations of Medical Humanities (IDMD 102)
  • History of Science/Medicine 1: Stonehenge to Magnets (HY 115)
  • History of Science/Medicine 2: Gravity to Genomes (HY 116)
  • Evolution for Everyone (ANT 150)
  • A Global History of Gaming (HY 307)
  • Race & Science (HY 345)
  • Epidemics! A History of Medicine (HY 346)
  • Darwin’s (R)evolution (HY 455)
  • Blood & Guts & Toilets in Victorian Britain (HY 494/495(H))

Awards and Honors

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

Selected Publications

Recent talks

  • 2022
    • “Race & The Descent of Man,” Symposium on Darwin Mythology; University of Geneva, Switzerland.
    • “Creating A Deeper Sickness,” American Advertising Federation of Tuscaloosa.
    • A Deeper Sickness: Disease and Disinformation,” OPCAM Politics Broadly, The University of Alabama.
    • “The Historical Roots of the Public Health Responses to COVID-19 in the South,” American Historical Association, Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • 2021
    • Presented “Afraid of the Dark: John Beddoe and the Building of the ‘Index of Nigressence’” and chaired/organized “Building Race into the Machine: Race, Big Data, and Algorithms,” History of Science Society/Society for the History of Technology, Annual Convention. New Orleans, Louisiana.
    • “Creating the Digital Museum for Deeper Sickness,” Digitorium 2021, Annual Convention. Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
    • “Sustaining an Interdisciplinary Podcast,” Humanities Podcasting Symposium, NYU Center for the Humanities.
  • 2020
    • Chair/commenter on “Racial Bodies of Knowledge: Reformulations of Human Difference in Physical Anthropology,” History of Science Society, Annual Convention. Zoom conference.
    • “Anti-Evolutionism was Really About Race,” American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science for Seminaries.
    • “Charles Darwin & the Church: Not the Story You’ve Been Told,” Inherit the Wind at Theater Tuscaloosa.
  • 2019
    • “How the West was lost: Revisiting the supposed failure of Anglo-American theoretical biology,” History of Science Society, Annual Convention. Utrecht, Netherlands (presented in absentia).
    • “Darwin & Evolution: Misconceptions that make teaching more difficult,” National Science Teachers Association, Annual Convention, St. Louis, Missouri.
    • “Human Biodiversity Studies = Just Bad-Old Race Science,” ALLELE, The University of Alabama.
    • “Josiah C. Nott’s Impact,” Evolution for Everyone, The University of Alabama.
    • “Darwin, Wallace, and the (quite possibly) Racist Birth of Anthropology,” University of Missouri.
    • “Who’s Afraid of ‘23andMe’? Some Implications of ‘Recreational Genomics’,” Boston College.