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Jenny Bangham

Research Fellow

Jenny's Wellcome Trust-funded project asks how scientific communities come together to produce community resources, such as repositories, newsletters, and databases. It traces the early history of 'FlyBase', an online genetic database that orders and communicates genetic information about the fruit fly Drosophila. Established in the early 1990s, FlyBase became instrumental to the transformation of biology into the data-intensive, richly funded, highly collaborative science it is today. This project uses the history of FlyBase to ask: How were the politics, infrastructures, professional expertise and practices of database genomics established, and what differences has this made to the politics and practices of biology and biomedicine?

Jenny has ongoing interests in human genetics. Her book Blood Relations, which will be published by the University of Chicago Press, explores how blood transfusion shaped human genetics in the mid-twentieth century. It is based on her Wellcome-funded PhD, which was awarded the Marc-Auguste Pictet Prize by the Société de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle in 2014.

Jenny was co-organizer with Boris Jardine and Emma Kowal of the 2017 workshop 'How Collections End: Meaning and Loss in Laboratories and Museums', held in the Whipple Museum for the History of Science. They brought together scholars of museums and laboratories to look at the threat and reality of ending in a range of different kinds of scientific collections. In the forthcoming 2019 issue of BJHS Themes, they bring together stories of endings from Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific. 

Related to this work on collections, Jenny has become involved in an ongoing collaborative project with Judith Kaplan and many other colleagues about the visibility and invisibility of people who carry out scientific research. In science there are powerful social, political and epistemological reasons why certain people, practices, and professions become obscured. The project explores why and how some people and processes become hidden in the human sciences. It analyzes the potential powers of concealment, its moral valances, and its epistemic ramifications. It attends to the risks, investments, values and motivations of those participating in science, and the circumstances in which these are made visible (or not).

In 2020 Jenny will take up a Wellcome Trust University Award appointment at Queen Mary University, London, to start a new project on the history of genetic counselling in Britain. Between 2012 and 2016 Jenny was at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Before turning to the history of science, she worked as a geneticist at University College London and the University of Edinburgh, and as an editor for Nature Reviews Genetics, Nature Reviews Cancer, and the journal Development

Research interests

Inscriptions and paper tools, the politics of genetics and genomics, public health, scientific administration, scientific collections, history of anthropology.

Selected publications

'Blood, Paper and Total Human Genetic Diversity', Limn, special issue 'The Total Archive' (2016).

'What Is Race?: UNESCO, mass communication and human genetics in the early 1950s', History of the Human Sciences 28, 80–107 (2015).

'Blood groups and human groups: Collecting and calibrating genetic data after World War Two', Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 47, 74–86 (2014).

'Writing, printing, speaking: Rhesus blood-group genetics and nomenclatures in the mid-twentieth century', British Journal for the History of Science, 47, 335–361 (2014).

'Between the transfusion services and blood group research: Human genetics in Britain during the Second World War'. Chapter in Human Heredity in the Twentieth Century, Bernd Gausemeier, Edmund Ramsden and Staffan Müller-Wille (eds), Pickering and Chatto (2013).

Edited volumes

Invisible Labour and Knowledge Production in the Human Sciences, Max Planck Preprint. Co-edited Judith Kaplan, University of Pennsylvania.

'The Study of Human Populations After 1945' Special Section of 13 papers in Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, co-edited with Soraya de Chadarevian, University of California, Los Angeles. Published in volume 47, 2014.