Sarah S. Richardson is an assistant professor of the history of science and of studies of women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University. A historian and philosopher of science, she focuses on race and gender in the biosciences and on the social dimensions of scientific knowledge. She has broad interests and expertise in the history of molecular biology, biomedicine, genetics, the philosophy of science, science and technology studies, and feminist science studies. Her book Sex Itself: Male and Female in the Human Genome (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming) traces the history of genetic theories of sex differences from 1900 to the present.
In her book project, “The Maternal Mystique,” Richardson situates maternal effects research within the 20th-century life sciences. The term “maternal effects” refers to the influences of a mother’s behavior, exposures, and physiology on her offspring’s future health and development. Once marginalized, maternal effects research blossomed in the mid-to-late 20th century. Today, maternal effects research is an expanding field in medicine, public health, psychology, evolutionary biology, and genomics. Richardson will examine the intersection between the rise of maternal effects research in the life sciences and changing conceptions of motherhood, health citizenship, and genetic determinism in the 20th century.
Richardson received her PhD from the Program in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University and coedited Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age (Rutgers University Press, 2008). Her work has been supported by research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Association of University Women.