Michael Osborne

Michael Osborne
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

01/09/2011 - 31/12/2011
03/09/2013 - 16/12/2013
10/10/2014 - 09/12/2014


Histoire des sciences et des technologies

Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

Oregon State University (États-Unis)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Scientific and Social Physiology in Context : Parasitology, zoology, and society in France, 1880-1920

My research investigates primarily French scientists and social theorists of the French Third Republic (1879-1940). It examines the uses of the terms parasite and parasitism and reviews definitional disputes over the nature of parasitism which accelerated in the last half of the nineteenth century. The term parasite, which in antiquity connoted common dining activity free of harm to the participating organisms, acquired new valences as biologists studied lichens and organisms where parasites and hosts seemed to co-adapt and sometimes merge into one other. Biologists like Pierre-Joseph Van Beneden added additional precision to the term, and while no consensus was achieved by the 1920s, the term as used in biology came to imply that parasites caused harm to their hosts and that parasitism was largely, if not exclusively, an inter-specific relationship. Biologists including Claude Bernard, Rudolf Virchow, and Edmond Perrier pondered the nature of parts and wholes on the cellular level, and some of their ideas, principally those of the neo-Lamarckian Perrier, were incorporated into the social thought of the era while France tired to integrate its colonies into a Greater France and was beset by strikes and anarchist activity. The appropriation of biological concepts by promoters of Solidarism, a theory of social cohesion infused with organicism, was selective as regards parasitism where it was applied to human to human relationships and thus violated the inter-specific consensus established by biologists.


Michael A. Osborne specializes in the history of modern biology, medicine, and environmental issues. He is especially interested in evolution, public health, regenerative medicine, and alpine environments. Michael Osborne discovered the history of science as an undergraduate at Oregon State University, where he benefited from charismatic and intellectually demanding professors. Before becoming a professor he worked for a number of government and private agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Fellowships or grants from the National Science Foundation, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the Camargo Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and other agencies have supported his research and that of his graduate students. Before returning to OSU he was professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he continues as Research Professor of Environmental Studies and History and bioethics leader for human embryonic stem cell research. He is currently completing a book under contract with the University of Chicago Press titled The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France.


Michael Osborne