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Professor Nick Hopwood, of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, recognised for his book 'Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud'.

The History of Science Society awards the Susanne J. Levinson Prize biennially for the best book in the history of the life sciences and natural history published in the previous four years.

The 2016 prize was presented to Nick Hopwood for Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud (University of Chicago Press, 2015) at the annual meeting of the society in Atlanta on Saturday, 5 November.

Haeckel’s Embryos tells the extraordinary story of an alleged forgery that became a textbook classic and icon of evolution. Along the way, it explores how scientific images succeed and fail, become taken for granted and cause trouble. The prize committee recognized "a work of thorough and thoughtful scholarship" which shows "how to take images seriously in re-examining the scientific past". "Readers are enabled to see afresh pictures that had become clichéd by their familiarity. … Everywhere the research is formidable, yet expressed with an enviable lightness of touch." A "pleasure to read", "Haeckel’s Embryos will be appreciated as a model for work which considers controversy, images, reproduction and transmission of all kinds."

Accepting the prize, Hopwood thanked the prize committee (Gregory Radick, Elena Aronova and Vanessa Heggie) and expressed gratitude to several institutions and people for patient and generous support over the decade it took to write the book. These included his Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science (especially Jim Secord), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (where he began the project as a visiting scholar), the Wellcome Trust (which funded the research), the Getty Foundation (for a grant which allowed the inclusion of over 200 colour pictures) and the University of Chicago Press (especially Karen Darling and Carol Fisher Saller). For more about the book, see the Chicago webpage.

Date awarded

05 November 2016

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