Prof. Dr. Staffan Müller-Wille
Staffan Müller-Wille is University Lecturer in History of Life, Earth and Human Sciences at the Department for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and also holds an honorary chair at the Institute for Medical History and Science Studies, University of Lübeck. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Bielefeld in 1997, and worked afterwards at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden and the Max Planck institute for history of Science in Berlin. In 2004, he moved to the University of Exeter (UK), where he last held a position as Associate Professor in the History and Philosophy of the Life Science and Co-Director of Egenis – The Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences. From 2013 to 2018, he was Editor-in-Chief of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. He has held fellowships in Tel Aviv, Mexico City, Paris, Minneapolis, Berlin, Bielefeld and Uppsala. His research falls within two broad themes, the history of natural history with a focus on the work and legacy of Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), and the cultural history of heredity since the early modern period with a focus on classical genetics and racial anthropology. He is chiefly interested in the history of information processing technologies in these areas, and how these have shaped our view of the world. More information on his research and publication can be found here: https://www.people.hps.cam.ac.uk/index/teaching-officers/muellerwille
- "‚Jederzeit zu Diensten’: Karl Ludwig Willdenows und Carl Sigismund Kunths Beiträge zur Pflanzengeographie Alexander von Humboldts”, in: edition humboldt digital, ed. by Ottmar Ette (Berlin: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, https://edition-humboldt.de/v4/H0017685)
- “Names and Numbers: ‘Data’ in Classical Natural History, 1758–1859”, in: Data Histories, ed. by Elena Aranova, Christine von Oertzen and David Sepkoski (=Osiris, vol. 32) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), pp. 109–128.
• “Linnaeus and the Love Lives of Plants”, in: Reproduction: From Antiquity to the Present Day, ed. by Nick Hopwood, Rebecca Flemming and Lauren Kassell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 305–318.
- Handbuch Wissenschaftsgeschichte, ed. with Marianne Sommer and Carsten Reinhardt. (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 2017)
- “Linnaeus and the Four Corners of the World”. in: The Cultural Politics of Blood, 1500–1900, ed. by Kim Coles et al (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), pp. 191–209.
- A Cultural History of Heredity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. With Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)
Reserach project: Affinities. On the history of a transdisciplinary concept around 1800
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the concept of affinity (Lat. affinitas, Germ. Verwandtschaft) experienced several conjunctures in the natural sciences. Beginning with Étienne François Geoffroy’s Table des rapports (1718), the concept played a crucial in the chemical revolution; affinity referred to the capacity of substances to displace other substances from compounds. In this sense, transmitted by Torbern Bergman’s Dissertation on Elective Attractions (Engl. 1785, Lat. 1775), the concept also entered world literature in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809; translated as Elective Affinities or Kindred by Choice). Alongside this chemical tradition, the concept was also routinely used by naturalists – primarily Carl Linnaeus, but a good century later by Charles Darwin – to refer to relationships of morphological similarity that so-called “natural systems” of plants and animals displayed. The concept finally also played a role in writings about electricity and magnetism, and in speculations bout the generation and development of organisms. Occupying a position at the threshold between the living and the non-living, affinities referred to relationships of both form and force. The aim of my project is, in the first instance, to chart the semantic space of affinity, as well as the main lines of its historical development. A particular focus will lie on its genealogical and political connotations, and on the translation of the concept into a multitude of tabular and diagrammatic representations.