Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 633–650 | Cite as

The Seven Sisters: Subgenres of Bioi of Contemporary Life Scientists



Today, scientific biography is primarily thought of as a way of writing contextual history of science. But the genre has other functions as well. This article discusses seven kinds of ideal–typical subgenres of scientific biography. In addition to its mainstream function as an ancilla historiae, it is also frequently used to enrich the understanding of the individual construction of scientific knowledge, to promote the public engagement with science, and as a substitute for belles-lettres. Currently less acknowledged kinds of scientific biography include its use as a medium for public and private, respectively, commemoration. Finally, the use of scientific biography as a research (virtue) ethical genre, providing examples of ‘the good life in science’, is emphasized.


scientific biography genre history of science belles-lettres public engagement with science virtue ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical MuseionUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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