Last winter, I was invited to contribute to a thematic issue (edited by Oren Harman) on scientific biography for the Journal of the History of Biology.
I decided to revisit and revise a genre analysis I had written a couple of years earlier and the result is an article titled ‘The Seven Sisters: Subgenres of bioi of contemporary life scientists’. A draft manuscript was submitted for peer review in the early spring, and the final version by the end of May. Now, the last corrections have been made and it will hopefully appear in the winter 2011 issue. Here’s the abstract:
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.
It would actually be fun to make a similar analysis of more recent biographical and autobiographical texts by life scientists published on the web.