Professor for Cultural Studies

T +41 41 229 56 15

Frohburgstrasse 3, Room 3.A30


Project Leader SNF-Sinergia

New Publications

Handbuch Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Marianne Sommer, Staffan Müller-Wille und Carsten Reinhard (eds.)

Further information here (german only)

History Within

Personal genomics services such as 23andMe and now offer what once was science fiction: the ability to sequence and analyze an individual’s entire genetic code—promising, in some cases, facts about that individual’s ancestry that may have remained otherwise lost. Such services draw on and contribute to the science of human population genetics that attempts to reconstruct the history of humankind, including the origin and movement of specific populations. Is it true, though, that who we are and where we come from is written into the sequence of our genomes? Are genes better documents for determining our histories and identities than fossils or other historical sources?

Our interpretation of gene sequences, like our interpretation of other historical evidence, inevitably tells a story laden with political and moral values. Focusing on the work of Henry Fairfield Osborn, Julian Sorell Huxley, and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza in paleoanthropology, evolutionary biology, and human population genetics, History Within asks how the sciences of human origins, whether through the museum, the zoo, or the genetics lab, have shaped our idea of what it means to be human. How have these biologically based histories influenced our ideas about nature, society, and culture? As Marianne Sommer shows, the stories we tell about bones, organisms, and molecules often change the world.

For review quotes see NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, British Journal for the History of ScienceJournal of the History of Biology, History of the Human Sciences, The British Journal of Sociology, Science.


Marianne Sommer is full Professor for Cultural Studies at the University of Lucerne, where she runs the Integrated BA/MA-Program in Cultural Studies since August 2011. She studied English Literature and Linguistics and Biology at the Universities of Zurich and Coventry (UK).

She wrote her Ph.D. thesis in the field of history of science between 1997 and 2000 at the University of Zurich. In addition, Marianne Sommer was a fellow at the Collegium Helveticum of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Subsequently, she spent two years as a Walther-Rathenau postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and another two years with a postdoctoral fellowship of the U.S. National Science Foundation at the Pennsylvania State University in the Science, Medicine and Technology in Culture program.

From 2004 to 2010 she was Assistant at the Department of Science Studies at the ETH Zurich, where she received the Venia legendi for History of Science and Science Studies in 2007. Marianne Sommer was granted a Swiss-National-Science-Foundation-Professorship for History of Science and Science Studies, with which she started at the ,Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte’ of the University of Zurich in 2010. In the same year, she was awarded the National Latsis Prize for her academic work. In 2011, she moved with her SNSF research team and project on ,History Within: The Phylogenetic Memory of Bones, Organisms, and Molecules' to the University of Lucerne.

Marianne Sommer was invited guest at several institutions: Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK, Vienna/Linz); Institute for Society and Genetics (UCLA); Stanford University (guest of Londa Schiebinger); Centre d' Estudis d' Historia de la Ciència (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona); Egenis - Centre for Genomics in Society (University of Exeter); Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin (guest of Gesine Krüger); Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM, Weimar); Cohn Institute (University of Tel Aviv); Edelstein Centre (Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Van Leer Jerusalem Institute); Centre Alexandre Koyré and EHESS (Paris). She is an associated member of the Center ,History of Knowledge’ (ETH and University of Zurich) and the ProDoc ,Das unsichere Wissen der Literatur: Natur, Recht, Ästhetik’.

For further information see the German content.




Contribution/presentation at a scientific conference

Contribution/presentation at a non-scientific event

Event organisation

Single lecture, talk, presentation at invitation