Originally educated as a biologist, I worked as a field ecologist in industry before my doctoral work. I received my Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 1983, with a dissertation on the history of debates amongst evolutionists over Darwinian explanations of animals’ mimetic coloration. I was a National Science Foundation NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leeds, investigating the history of genetics and ecology in twentieth century Britain. I came to NC State in 1986.
- Associate Department Head
- Director of Undergraduate Programs in History
- Director, Thomas Jefferson Scholars Program
- Thursday, 3-5 p.m., and by appointment
- in-person in WI 351 or on Zoom
Teaching and Research Interests
I teach courses on the history of biology (HI 481: History of the Life Sciences) and on the history of Darwinism (HI 482/582: Darwinism in Science & Society), and the history of science survey course (HI 322: Rise of Modern Science). I am a core faculty member in the interdisciplinary W. M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology. With colleagues in biology, I periodically teach a reading course on Darwin for grad students. I have also taught in the graduate MALS program, and served on its advisory committee.
I am the Director of the Jefferson Scholars, a program for students earning a degree in both the College of Humanities & Social Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I serve as faculty mentor for the Jefferson Scholars, and teach an Honors seminar course on the history of biology for them.
In May 2001, I was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, and inducted into the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers.
In May 2006, I was named Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor.
In 2016, I was named Outstanding Advisor for the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, and nominated for the University Faculty Advising Award.
My research interest is the history of evolutionary ideas, with an emphasis on the disciplines of natural history, ecology, genetics, and behavior. My work places the development of ideas and scientific practices within two types of context in particular. One is the formation of scientific disciplines and the disputes about authority and relevant evidences and methods. The other is the ways that controversies and consensus form as a scientific field becomes convinced of new ideas and research directions.
I’m currently working on two projects. One is a paper on how visual representations of the tropics contriubuted to ideas and understanding of tropical ecology. My larger project is an analysis of the reputation and representations of Charles Darwin as an icon of the idea and cultural impact of evolution.
Extension and Community Engagement
Listen to a new podcast: “Charles Darwin and Animal Behavior”, in conversation with Dr. Matthew Zipple, Cornell University’s The Animal Behavior Podcast, Season 3, Episode 1 (also on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
Recent Public Lectures:
OLLI course, McKimmon Center at NC State, on “History of Evolution”, Fall 2022.
Frequent guest on Tom Kearney Show, WPTF Radio, discussing history of science, especially evolution, through 2012-2021.
Keynote Address, Clemson University Darwin Day Conference, February 2020, on “Darwin and the Origins of Holistic Science.”
Darwin Day Lectures, NC Museum of Natural Science, 2011 – 2017
Zahner Conservation Lecture, Highlands Biological Station, on “Amazonian Naturalists, Artists, and the Idea of the Tropics,” 2014.
NC State University/NC Museum of Natural Science “Pint o’ Science” program, on “Darwin’s Legacy,” 2013.
English Speaking Union tour, on “Darwin and Empire,” Fall 2012
PopMED Seminar, NC State Veterinary College / UNC-CH Medical School, on “Natural History, Lab Science, and the Study of Animal Mind,” 2011.
American Scientist podcast, on “Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science,” 2010.
Science Café, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, on “Darwin and the Path to Discovery,” 2010.
If you’d like to hear a short discussion about Darwin and science, listen to the interview on WKNC (sorry, musical selections deleted).
Modern evolutionary synthesis. In James Trefil, ed., Discoveries in Modern Science: Exploration, Invention, Technology, pp. 710-23. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan, 2015.
The Origin of Species. In James Trefil, ed., Discoveries in Modern Science: Exploration, Invention, Technology, pp. 831-33. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan, 2015.
Reaction to The Origin of Species. In James Trefil, ed., Discoveries in Modern Science: Exploration, Invention, Technology, pp. 833-37. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan, 2015.
Kimler, William C. and Michael Ruse. 2013. Mimicry and Camouflage. In M. Ruse (ed.), Darwin and Evolutionary Thought, pp. 139-56. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2009. Henry Walter Bates. In Michael Ruse & James Travis (ed.), Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, pp. 444-47. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2000. Reading Morgan’s Canon: Reduction and unification in forging a science of the mind. American Zoologist 40: 853-61.
Jackson, James R. and William C. Kimler. 1999. Taxonomy and the personal equation: The historical fates of Charles Girard and Louis Agassiz. Journal of the History of Biology 32: 509-555.
1998. Ecology: Disciplinary history. Sciences of the Earth: An Encyclopedia of Events, People, & Phenomena, pp. 219-25. [Garland Encyclopedias in the History of Science]. New York: Garland Publishing.
1998. Evolution and the geosciences. Sciences of the Earth: An Encyclopedia of Events, People, & Phenomena, pp. 238-43. [Garland Encyclopedias in the History of Science]. New York: Garland Publishing.
1990. Warder Clyde Allee. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 17: 16-18. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1990. Marston Bates. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 17: 51-53. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1990. Rachel Carson. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 17: 142-43. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1990. Waldo Lee McAtee. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 18: 580-81. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1990. Edward Bagnall Poulton. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 18: 721-27. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1990. Victor Ernest Shelford. Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Supplement II) 18: 811-13. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1988. Edward O. Wilson. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography. 15: 559-60. Palatine, Illinois: Jack Heraty & Associates.
1987. Julian Huxley. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography 14: 208-209. Palatine, Illinois: Jack Heraty & Associates.
1987. Ernst Mayr. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography 14: 467-68. Palatine, Illinois: Jack Heraty & Associates.
1986. Advantage, adaptiveness, and evolutionary ecology. Journal of the History of Biology 19: 215-33.
1983. Mimicry: Views of naturalists and ecologists before the Modern Synthesis. In Marjorie Grene (ed.), Dimensions of Darwinism, pp. 97-127. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Selected Recent Reviews:
2014. Review of Peter Bowler, Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Reports of the National Center for Science Education, in press.
2012. Essay Review: Case Studies, Controversy and the ‘Fieldworker’s Regress’. Annals of Science 69: 127-132.
2010. Review of Iain McCalman, Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution, New York: W. W. Norton, 2009. Journal of World History 21:158-60.
Recent Invited Seminars and Conferences:
Zahner Conservation Lecture, Highlands Biological Station, August 2014, Topic: Amazonian Naturalists, Artists, and the Idea of the Tropics.
Science, Technology & Society Seminar, NC State, January 2015, Topic: Parables and Reputations: What the Shifting Images of Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin Can Tell Us about Scientific Practice.
National Association of Biology Teachers, “NESCENT/BEACON Evolution Symposium: Wallace, Islands, and Biogeography 100 Years Later,” November 2013, Topic: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Limits of Natural Selection.
Keynote Speaker, 25th Annual Graduate History Forum, UNC-Charlotte, April 2013. Topic: In the Footsteps of Humboldt: Art, Travel, and Tropical Ecology.
Genetics Department, NC State University, November 2012. Topic: Mimetic Butterflies and Darwin’s Explanation of Adaptation.
Florida State University Program in History & Philosophy of Science, October 2011. Topic: Mimicry and the Debates over Natural Selection.
International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, July 2011. Topic: Narratives and Visual Representations in a Persistent Vision of Tropical Abundance.
“Visualizing Narrative; Narrativizing the Visual” Conference, NC State, March, 2010. Topic: Envisioning the Tropics: Domesticating the Exotic through 19th-century Popular Natural History.
Ph.D. Evolutionary Biology/History of Biology Cornell University 1983
M.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Cornell University 1979
B.A. Biology Rice University 1973