skip to primary navigationskip to content

Nick Hopwood

Professor of History of Science and Medicine

A historian of biological and medical sciences, I am interested generally in visual communication and specifically in embryology, reproduction, anatomy and evolution. Having worked most on German-speaking Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I increasingly study Britain and the United States and range from 1750 to the present.

My recent book, Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud, tells the extraordinary story of an alleged forgery that became a textbook classic. Spanning from the 19th to the 21st century, and from the German lands to the US, it explores how scientific images succeed and fail, become taken for granted and cause trouble. My first book, Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio, is available from the Whipple Museum.

I am principal holder of a Wellcome strategic award in the history of medicine on the theme 'Generation to Reproduction', which has led, among other things, to Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day, a large, accessible, illustrated volume that Cambridge University Press will publish in October 2018. I am writing Human Embryos: A Visual History and researching the history of IVF, an interest I share with Martin Johnson (PDN) and Sarah Franklin (Sociology).

I came to history of science and medicine after postdoctoral work in developmental biology. Having lectured in Cambridge HPS and at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, I became a teaching officer here in 1998 and won a Pilkington teaching prize in 2006. I co-direct the Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences and am history section editor of Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online, an associate editor of the Journal of the History of Biology and a council member of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology.

Selected publications

Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day, co-edited with Rebecca Flemming and Lauren Kassell (Cambridge, 2018, in press). Forty-four 5,000-word chapters, 40 colour 'exhibits'. Own chapters: 'Reproduction in History' and 'Concluding Reflections' (both with Flemming and Kassell), 'The Keywords "Generation" and "Reproduction"', 'Artificial Fertilization', 'Modern Law and Regulation' (with Martin H. Johnson) and 'Globalization'; exhibits: 'Images of Human Embryos' and 'It's a Girl'; part introductions: 'Inventing Reproduction', 'Modern Reproduction' and 'Reproduction Centre Stage'.

Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud (Chicago, 2015). 8.5'' x 11'', viii + 388 pp., 202 colour plates. Winner of the 2016 Suzanne J. Levinson Prize of the History of Science Society for best book in the history of the life sciences and natural history; 'highly commended' for the 2016 SHARP DeLong Book History Prize; shortlisted for the 2016 BSHS John Pickstone Prize. Read a feature. View a talk (at 1:04:20). Hear an interview.

Communicating Reproduction, special issue, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 89 (2015): 379–556, co-edited and introduced (on pp. 379–405 [open access]) with Peter Murray Jones, Lauren Kassell and Jim Secord. Read a Q&A. See an exhibition.

'The Cult of Amphioxus in German Darwinism; or, Our Gelatinous Ancestors in Naples' Blue and Balmy Bay', History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36 (2015): 371–393 [open access]

'A Marble Embryo: Meanings of a Portrait from 1900', History Workshop Journal 73 (Spring 2012): 5–36 [open access]

'Approaches and Species in the History of Vertebrate Embryology', in Vertebrate Embryogenesis: Embryological, Cellular, and Genetic Methods (Methods in Molecular Biology 770), edited by Francisco J. Pelegri (Humana Press, 2011): 1–20 [PDF file]

'Why the Medical Research Council Refused Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe Support for Research on Human Conception in 1971', with Martin H. Johnson, Sarah B. Franklin and Matthew Cottingham, Human Reproduction 25 (2010): 2157–2174 [open access]

Seriality and Scientific Objects in the Nineteenth Century, special double issue, History of Science 48 (2010): 251–494, co-edited and introduced (on pp. 251–285) with Simon Schaffer and Jim Secord [PDF file]

'Embryology', in The Cambridge History of Science, volume 6: The Modern Biological and Earth Sciences, edited by Peter J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone (Cambridge, 2009): 285–315

'Darwinism’s Tragic Genius: Psychology and Reputation', essay review of The Tragic Sense of Life by Robert J. Richards, Isis 100 (2009): 863–867

Making Visible Embryos, with Tatjana Buklijas, online exhibition (2008–10)

'Artist Versus Anatomist, Models Against Dissection: Paul Zeiller of Munich and the Revolution of 1848', Medical History 51 (2007): 279–308 [open access] [PDF file]

'Visual Standards and Disciplinary Change: Normal Plates, Tables and Stages in Embryology', History of Science 43 (2005): 239–303 [PDF file]

Models: The Third Dimension of Science, co-edited and introduced (on pp. 1–15) with Soraya de Chadarevian; own chapter (pp. 170–206) on 'Plastic Publishing in Embryology' (Stanford, 2004). xvi + 464 pp.

Embryos in Wax: Models from the Ziegler Studio (Whipple Museum of the History of Science; Institute of the History of Medicine, University of Bern, 2002; reprinted 2013). xi + 206 pp., 32 colour plates, 100 halftones.

'Embryonen "auf dem Altar der Wissenschaft zu opfern": Entwicklungsreihen im späten neunzehnten Jahrhundert', in Geschichte des Ungeborenen. Zur Erfahrungs- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Schwangerschaft, 17.–20. Jahrhundert, edited by Barbara Duden, Jürgen Schlumbohm and Patrice Veit (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2 printings, 2002): 237–272

'Producing Development: The Anatomy of Human Embryos and the Norms of Wilhelm His', Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74 (2000): 29–79 [PDF file]

'The Introduction of Xenopus laevis into Developmental Biology: Of Empire, Pregnancy Testing and Ribosomal Genes', with John B. Gurdon, International Journal of Developmental Biology 44 (2000): 43–50 [open access] [PDF file]

'"Giving Body" to Embryos: Modeling, Mechanism, and the Microtome in Late Nineteenth-Century Anatomy', Isis 90 (1999): 462–496 [PDF file]

'Biology between University and Proletariat: The Making of a Red Professor', History of Science 35 (1997): 367–424 [PDF file]

'Producing a Socialist Popular Science in the Weimar Republic', History Workshop Journal 41 (Spring 1996): 117–153 [PDF file]

'Genetics in the Mandarin Style', essay review of Styles of Scientific Thought by Jonathan Harwood, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 25 (1994): 237–250

Fourteen publications in developmental biology, 1989–94, including first-author papers in Nature, Cell, EMBO Journal and Development.


Recent book reviews

Review of Ernst Haeckel, Ausgewählte Briefwechsel, vol. 1: Familienkorrespondenz Februar 1839 – April 1854, ed. Roman Göbel et al. (2017), Isis, in press

Review of Erik L. Peterson, The Life Organic: The Theoretical Biology Club and the Roots of Epigenetics (2016), American Historical Review 123 (2018): 641–642

Review of Klaus Taschwer, Der Fall Paul Kammerer. Das abenteuerliche Leben des umstrittensten Biologen seiner Zeit (2016), Isis 109 (2018): 210–211

Review of Jane Maienschein, Embryos under the Microscope: The Diverging Meanings of Life (2014), Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 71 (2016): 230–232

Review of Catelijne Coopmans et al. (eds), Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited (2014), Isis 106 (2015): 899–901

Review of Renato G. Mazzolini and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (eds), Differing Routes to Stem Cell Research: Germany and Italy (2012), Isis 105 (2014): 869–870

Review of Malcolm Nicolson and John E. E. Fleming, Imaging and Imagining the Fetus: The Development of Obstetric Ultrasound (2013), Medical History 58 (2014): 450–452

Nick Hopwood

Cambridge historians of medicine and biology are using a Wellcome strategic award to take a concerted approach to the history of reproduction.