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James Griesemer

James Griesemer

Professor of Philosophy

Member of STS

Department of Philosophy
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-8673


I am a Professor and Ex-Chair (!) of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Davis, a member of the UC Davis Science and Technology Studies Program and the Center for Population Biology. I am also Past-President of the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology and a member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Altenberg Austria. My primary interests are philosophical, historical, and social understanding of the biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology, genetics, developmental biology, ecology and systematics. I have written on a wide variety of topics in history, philosophy and social studies of biology, including models and practices in museum-based natural history, laboratory-based ecology, units and levels of inheritance and selection in evolutionary biology, and visual representation in embryology and genetics. I am currently writing a book, Reproduction in the Evolutionary Process, which develops an epistemology of scientific practice, a theory of reproduction more comprehensive than current philosophical accounts of inheritance, and with applications to theoretical problems ranging from the nature and origin of living systems, evolutionary transitions, eco-evo-devo, and cultural change.




Griesemer, J., “Integration of Approaches in David Wake’s Model-Taxon Research Platform for Evolutionary Morphology ,” in I. Brigandt (ed.), Special Issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Griesemer, J., “What Salamander Biologists Have Taught Us About Evo-Devo,” in A. Love (ed), Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science) Springer Verlag.


Star, S. L. and J. R. Griesemer 2008, “Ecologie institutionnelle « traductions » et objets frontières : des amateurs et des professionnels au musée de zoologie vertébrée de Berkeley, 1907-1939.” Translation (Lucie Tangy) of Star and Griesemer 1989, in Rosental, C. & Lahire, B. (sous la dir. de), La cognition au prisme des sciences sociales, Paris, Editions des Archives Contemporaines, 2008.

Griesemer, J. 2005. “Le concept reproducteur,” 2005. Adapted and translated by Emmanuelle Chollet and Michel Morange, Medecine/Sciences 21: 1106-11, online http://www.erudit.org/revue/MS/2005/v21/n12/012020ar.html

Star, S. L. and J. R. Griesemer 1999, Reprint of Star and Griesemer 1989, "Institutional Ecology, 'Translations,' and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907 - 1939." reprinted in Mario Biagioli (ed.), The Science Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 505-524.

Griesemer, J. R. 1996, "Le role des instruments dans l'analyse de la science," La Materialite des Sciences: Savoir-faire et Instruments dans les Sceinces de la Vie, Paris: Synthelabo Groupe, pp. 71-106. Translation and reprint of Griesemer, J. R. 1992. "The Role of Instruments in the Generative Analysis of Science."



Griesemer, J. “Formalization and the Meaning of “Theory” in the Inexact Biological Sciences,” Biological Theory.


Griesemer, J. 2011. “Heuristic Reductionism and the Relative Significance of Epigenetic Inheritance in Evolution,” in Hallgrímsson, Benedikt and Brian K. Hall (eds), Epigenetics: Linking Genotype and Phenotype in Development and Evolution, Berkeley: University of California Press, 14-40.

Griesemer, J. 2011. “The relative significance of epigenetic inheritance in evolution: Some philosophical considerations,” in Snait Gissis and Eva Jablonka (eds), Transformations of Lamarckism: from subtle fluids to molecular biology, MIT Press, 331-344.

Shavit, A. and J. Griesemer, 2011. “Mind the Gaps: Why Are Niche Construction Processes So Rarely Used?” in Snait Gissis and Eva Jablonka (eds), Transformations of Lamarckism: from subtle fluids to molecular biology, MIT Press, 307-317.

Griesemer, J. 2011. “Baeolophus inornatus affabilis,” in Azzouni, S., C. Brandt, B. Gausemeir, J. Kursell, H. Schmidgen, and B. Wittmann (eds), Eine Naturgeschichte für Das 21. Jahrhundert: Hommage A zu Ehren von Hans-Jörg Rheinberger.  Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, pp. 138-140.

Shavit, A. and J. Griesemer 2011, “Transforming Objects into Data: How Minute Technicalities of Recording “Species Location” Entrench a Basic Challenge for Biodiversity,” in Martin Carrier & Alfred Nordmann (eds.),Science in the Context of Application: Methodological Change, Conceptual Transformation, Cultural Reorientation. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 274. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 169-193.


Shavit, A. and J. Griesemer 2009, "There and Back Again, or, The Problem of Locality in Biodiversity Surveys," Philosophy of Science 76(3): 273-294. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/toc/phos/76/3

Griesemer, James and Eörs Szathmáry 2009, "Gánti’s Chemoton Model and Life Criteria," Chapter 22 in Protocells: Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter, Steen Rasmussen, Liaohai Chen, Norman Packard, Mark Bedau, Liaohai Chen, David Deamer, David Krakauer, Norman Packard, and Peter Stadler (Eds.), MIT Press, 481-512.

Griesemer, James 2008, "Origins of Life Studies," Chapter 11 in Michael Ruse (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology, New York: Oxford University Press, 263-290.

Wimsatt, W. C. and J. R. Griesemer, 2007, "Reproducing Entrenchments to Scaffold Culture: The Central Role of Development in Cultural Evolution,” Chapter 7 in Roger Sansom and Robert Brandon (eds.), Integrating Evolution and Development: From Theory to Practice, Cambridge: MIT Press, 227-323.

Griesemer, James 2007, "Tracking Organic Processes: Representations and Research Styles in Classical Embryology and Genetics," Chapter 12 in Manfred D. Laubichler and Jane Maienschein (eds.), From Embryology to Evo-Devo: A History of Developmental Evolution, Cambridge: MIT Press, 375-433. This book was selected for an "Outstanding Academic Title Award" from Choice Magazine, January 2008.

Griesemer, James and Elihu M. Gerson, 2006, "Essay review: "Of mice and men and low unit cost" (review of Making Mice: Standardizing Animals for American Biomedical Research, 1900–1955. Karen A. Rader; Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2004, pp. 312). Studies in History and Philosophy of Biolological & Biomedical Sciences 37: 362-372.

Bechtel, William, Werner Callebaut, James Griesemer, and Jeffrey Schank 2006, “Interview: Bill Wimsatt on Multiple Ways of Getting at the Complexity of Nature.” Biological Theory 1(2) 2006, 213–219.

Griesemer, James 2006, "Theoretical Integration, Cooperation, and Theories as Tracking Devices," Biological Theory 1(1): 4-7.

Griesemer, James 2006, "Genetics from an Evolutionary Process Perspective," Ch. 8 in Genes in Development, Eva M. Neumann-Held and Christoph Rehmann-Sutter (eds.), Duke University Press, 199-237.

Griesemer, James, Matthew Haber, Grant Yamashita, and Lisa Gannett 2005, "Critical notice. Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution," Biology and Philosophy 20:517–544.

Griesemer, J. R. 2005, "The Informational Gene and the Substantial Body: On the Generalization of Evolutionary Theory by Abstraction", in Martin R. Jones and Nancy Cartwright (eds.) 2005, Idealization XII: Correcting the Model, Idealization and Abstraction in the Sciences. (Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, volume 86) Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 59-115.

Griesemer, J. and G. Yamashita, 2005.  “Zeitmanagement bei Modellsystemen.  Drei Beispiele aus der Evolutionsbiologie” in H. Schmidgen (ed.), Lebendige Zeit.  Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, p. 213-241.

Gannett, Lisa and James Griesemer 2004, "Classical Genetics and the Geography of Genes," in Mapping Cultures of Twentieth Century Genetics, 57-87, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and Dr. Jean-Paul Gaudilliere (eds.), Routledge.

Gannett, Lisa and James Griesemer 2004, "The ABO Blood Groups: Mapping the History and Geography of Genes in Homo sapiens," in Mapping Cultures of Twentieth Century Genetics, 119-172, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and Dr. Jean-Paul Gaudilliere (eds.), Routledge.

Griesemer, James 2004, "Three-dimensional models in philosophical perspective," in Models: The Third Dimension of Science, S. de Chadarevian and N. Hopwood (eds.), Stanford, Stanford University Press, 433-442.

Gánti, Tibor, James Griesemer (editor), and Eörs Szathmáry (editor), 2003, The Principles of Life, with a commentary by James Griesemer and Eörs Szathmáry, Oxford University Press. The Principles of Life at Oxford University Press or Amazon.com.

Griesemer, J. 2003, "The Philosophical Significance of Gánti's Work," Ch. 5 of Gánti et al. 2003, The Principles of Life, with a commentary by James Griesemer and Eörs Szathmáry, Oxford University Press, 169-194.

Griesemer, James 2002, "What is "Epi" about Epigenetics?" In G. Vandevijver, L. Vanspeybroeck and D. Dewaele (eds.), From Epigenesis to Epigenetics: the Genome in Context, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 981: 97-110.

J. Griesemer, (2002). Space <=>Time: Temporality and Attention in Iconographies of the Living. Experimental Arcades: The Materiality of Time Relations in Life Sciences, Art, and Technology (1830-1930). H. Schmidgen. Berlin, Max Plank Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Preprint 226: 45-57.

J. Griesemer 2002, "Limits of reproduction: A Reductionistic Research Strategy in Evolutionary Biology," in M. H. V. Van Regenmortel and D. Hull (eds.), Promises and Limits of Reductionism in the Biomedical Sciences, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 211-231.

J. Griesemer and Churchill, F. B. 2002, "Weismann, August Friederich Leopold " in Mark Pagel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Evolution, Volume 2, New York: Oxford University Press, 1149-1151.

Griesemer, J. 2000, "The Units of Evolutionary Transition," Selection 1: 67-80.

Griesemer, J. 2000, "Development, Culture and the Units of Inheritance," Philosophy of Science 67 (Proceedings): S348-S368.

Griesemer, J. R., 2000, "Reproduction and the Reduction of Genetics," P. Beurton, R. Falk, and H-J. Rheinberger (eds.), The Concept of the Gene in Development and Evolution, Historical and Epistemological Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, 240-285.

Griesemer, J. R. and Wade, M. J. 2000, "Populational Heritability: Extending Punnett Square Concepts to Evolution at the Metapopulation Level," Biology & Philosophy 15 (1):1-17.

Griesemer, J. 1998 "Commentary: The Case for Epigenetic Inheritance in Evolution," Journal of Evolutionary Biology 11(2): 193-200.

See also the essay reviews of Jablonka and Lamb (1995) and of Maynard Smith and Szathmary (1995).

Wade, M. J. and J. R. Griesemer, 1998 "Populational heritability: Empirical Studies of Evolution in Metapopulations," American Naturalist 151(2): 135-147.

Griesemer, J. R. 1996. "Periodization and Models in Historical Biology," in Michael T. Ghiselin and G. Pinna (eds.), Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences, no. 20, New Perspectives on the History of Life, San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences, pp. 19-30.

Griesemer 1996. "Some Concepts of Historical Science", Memorie della Societa Italiana de Scienze Naturali e del Museo Civico di storia Naturale di Milano 27: 60-69.

Griesemer, J.R. 1994. "Tools for Talking: Human Nature, Weismannism and the Interpretation of Genetic Information", in Carl Cranor (ed.), Are Genes Us?The Social Consequences of the New Genetics, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 69-88.

Griesemer, J. R. and E. M. Gerson. 1993. "Collaboration in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology." Journal of the History of Biology 26(2): 185-204.

Griesemer, J. R. 1992. "The Role of Instruments in the Generative Analysis of Science," in A. Clarke and J. Fujimura (eds.), The Right Tools for the Job: At Work in Twentieth Century Life Sciences, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 47-76.

Griesemer, J. R. 1992. "Niche: Historical Perspectives," in E. F. Keller and E. S. Lloyd (eds.), Key Words in Evolutionary Biology, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 231-240.

Griesemer, J. R. 1991. "Material Models in Biology", in A. Fine, M. Forbes and L. Wessels (eds.), PSA 1990, volume 2, East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 79-93.

Griesemer, J. R. 1991. "Must Scientific Diagrams Be Eliminable? The Case of Path Analysis," Biology and Philosophy 6: 155-180.

Griesemer, J. R. 1990. "Modeling in the Museum: On the Role of Remnant Models in the Work of Joseph Grinnell." Biology and Philosophy 5: 3-36.

Griesemer, J. R. and W. C. Wimsatt. 1989. "Picturing Weismannism: A Case Study of Conceptual Evolution." What the Philosophy of Biology Is, Essays for David Hull, M. Ruse (ed.), Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 75-137.

Star, S. L. and J. R. Griesemer. 1989. "Institutional Ecology, 'Translations,' and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907 - 1939." Social Studies of Science 19: 387-420.

Griesemer, J. R. 1988. "Causal Explanation in Laboratory Ecology: The Case of Competitive Indeterminacy." PSA 1988, Vol. 1, pp. 337-344. A. Fine and J. Leplin (eds.), East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association.

Griesemer, J. R. 1988. "Genes, Memes and Demes," Biology and Philosophy 3:179-

Griesemer, J. R. and M. J. Wade. 1988. "Laboratory Models, Causal Explanation and Group Selection." Biology and Philosophy 3: 67-96.

Griesemer, J. R. 1985. "Philosophy of Science and 'The' Scientific Method." American Biology Teacher 47:211-215.

Griesemer, J. R. 1984. "Presentations and the Status of Theories." PSA 1984, Vol 1, 102-114. P. D. Asquith and P. Kitcher (eds.) Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing.

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