The Value of the literary and historical study of biology to biologists

Innovation award

Project Team:

Principal Investigator:

Professor Nick Battey, University of Reading


Dr John Holmes (University of Reading)

Professor Francoise Le Saux (University of Reading)

Professor Karin Lesnik- Oberstein (University of Reading)

Dr David Stack (University of Reading)

Dr Rachel Crossland (University of Reading)

Award Information:

The aim of the study was to establish whether and how far work on biology within the humanities- particularly history, literary criticism and critical theory- may be of value to practicing biologists.

In addition to surveying existing literature on biology within these disciplines, particularly that which seeks to engage directly with biologists, we held a workshop to introduce 30 biologists to different humanities approaches to biology. Following four presentations by scholars from different humanities disciplines, the workshop participants were asked to consider how relevant and/or useful such approaches might be to their own work, and invited to think about how biologists might work with humanities academics and/or techniques in research, teaching, museum curating and textual analysis.

On the basis of this study, we conclude that there is real potential for the humanities to play a part in the future development of biology, and that co-disciplinary collaborations between biologists and humanities scholars in research and teaching could lay the foundations for a new, more rounded and ultimately more complete approach to the study of human beings, our fellow organisms and the environments we share with them.

Project website:

Further information:

The scoping study produced as part of this project is available to download here:

The Value of the Literary and Historical study of Biology to Biologists- Scoping Study

A Case Study (PDF) of this AHRC Science in Culture Theme Exploratory Award is available to download here.

Project dates: February- September 2012