The arrival of the fittest
The Arrival of the Fittest: biology’s imaginary futures, 1900-1935 will be my next book, to be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2024. It examines how various early-twentieth-century publics made creative use of new theories of heredity (particularly the now largely forgotten mutation theory of Hugo de Vries). Science fiction writers, socialists, feminists and utopians are among those who seized on the amazing possibilities of rapid, potentially controllable, evolution. De Vries’ highly respected scientific theory only briefly captured the attention of the scientific community, but its many fans appropriated it for their own, often wildly imaginative ends. Writers from H.G. Wells and Edith Wharton, to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, J.B.S. Haldane and Aldous Huxley, created a new kind of imaginary future – the biotopia – which took the utopian and dystopian possibilities of biology and presented them in ways that still influence the public’s understanding the sciences of life. I argue that recovering the fascinating, long-forgotten origins of ideas that have informed fictions from Brave New World to the X-Men movies provides an opportunity to reflect on the lessons – positive and negative – that this period might offer us.
How Not To Be Human
Was the title of a series of lectures about science fiction that I gave at Gresham College over the last year.
it looked at the ways in which writers and film-makers explored the question of what it means to be human in science fiction, by contrasting an imagined human nature with women, apes, machines and aliens – all of which have been imagined at various times as “non human”.
Questions of race, gender, reason and emotion will be woven through all four lectures, to illustrate some of the rich and varied ways in which fictions based in science have imagined what (if anything) constitutes “human nature”.
You can find out more (and watch all the lectures) on the Gresham College website.
I am currently turning the lectures into a book; more details in due course!
Chinese Guinea Pig!
Almost fifteen years after it first appeared in English, my first book A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology, has been translated into Chinese. (Complete with illustrations by the translator, Professor Fei Wang.)
There is more info about the book here.
Metamorphosis – how insects transformed our world
Was the title of my most recent Gresham College lecture series, which has attracted more than 20,000 online views. All the lectures can be found on YouTube: Darwin’s Troubled Legacy; The Secrets of Darwin’s Greenhouse; Making a Monkey out of Darwin and Breeding and Barnacles.
The series is available to watch online.
I was appointed the first visiting professor of the History of Science at Gresham College in 2019. The college provides free public lectures to the people of London that are both live-streamed and available on YouTube. I discuss this and other issues in an interview for my university’s series This Sussex Life.
The Art of Innovation
A collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and London’s Science Museum that explores the connections between art and science. I am featured in three of the radio episodes: Tracking Progress; Plants on Paper (briefly); and, Protecting the Earth.
History of Science Society: Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize
Awarded to my book, Orchid: A cultural history, in November 2018. The prize committee were kind enough to say: “In this delightful, engaging, and insightful study, Endersby documents the enduring cultural and scientific allure of the orchid, from the time of the ancient Greeks to the recent past. With eloquent, imaginative, and witty prose, Orchid traces the cultural meanings associated with this often fragrant and beautiful plant, especially the themes of sex and death that weave through literature, scientific writing, and cinema”. I am very grateful to them, and to the Society for the award.
The Society also invited me to write a short article for their newsletter, explaining how I came to write Orchid.