This study theorizes and historically situates the emergence, during the 20th and 21st centuries, of the science of “maternal effects.” Collectively, maternal effects research argues that a mother’s experiences, behaviors, and physiology—inflected by her social and environmental context—can have life-altering effects on the developing fetus. Employing methods and frameworks from history, philosophy, and gender studies of science, and using primary scientific literature, historical archives, and interviews with leading living researchers, this study endeavors to uncover and analyze the relationship between scientific developments in maternal effects research and their larger intellectual and social contexts.
The research partner will use Harvard and Boston-area research collections to carry out primary and secondary source research to support this study. This work requires resourceful bibliographic skills as well as some background in medicine or the life sciences. Working closely with the professor, the student will gain first-hand experience in crafting an interdisciplinary study in the history of science.