William B. Provine

I am working on four disparate research projects: (1) a history of the theories of neutral molecular evolution (Kimura, Ohta, King, Jukes, and many others); (2) a history of geneticists' attitudes toward human race differences and race crossing; (3) implications of modern biology for free will, moral responsibility, and the foundations of ethics; and (4) a history of ideas about speciation from 1963 to the present.

In recent years, graduate students working with me have written their theses on topics such as the history of mimicry theory, history of ideas about variation in natural populations, role of botany in the evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, a study of the controversies surrounding the genetic effects of atomic bombs dropped on Japan, ideas about inheritance in humans in the period 1600-1865 in the USA, using the history of biology to teach introductory college-level biology, reactions of the professional ecology community to the work of Rachel Carson, history of ideas about sexual selection, tensions in the history of neuropsychology, and a biography of Tomoko Ohta.

I have collected an enormous library of evolution and genetics that is available for our use. The library consists of more than 300,000 reprints and a huge collection of books on evolution.


B.S. 1962 (University of Chicago)
M.A. 1965 (University of Chicago)
Ph.D. 1970 (University of Chicago)

Will Provine is Professor of the History of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and in the Department of History; he is also the Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences. He is a member of the Graduate Fields of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, History, and Science and Technology Studies. He began his career at Cornell as Assistant Professor of History in 1969, joined the Division of Biological Sciences in 1974, and became a member of the Section of Ecology and Systematics in 1986. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1988 he won Cornell's Clark Distinguished Teaching Award.


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