Lynn Nyhart


Professor of History of Science


 Lynn Nyhart thinks the history of science is the best subject ever. Thinking about how people in the past have thought about nature, and how we can gain reliable knowledge about nature, helps us understand the hidden assumptions we carry around with us today, and how they are shaped by events and ideas long past. Besides teaching ILS 202, she teaches various courses around the topics of the history of biology, evolution, and nineteenth-century culture in the History of Science Department. She has published two books on the German biology, Biology Takes Form: Animal Morphology and the German Universities (1996), and Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany (2009), which looks at the roots of German ecological thought outside the university system, in popular natural history, zoos, schools, and especially natural history museums. In 2011-2012 she is not teaching, but using a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation to explore the history of ideas concerning biological individuality and part-whole relationships. (Is a coral reef a single individual or many? You need the bacteria living in your gut in order to survive—are they part of you as an individual whole? How are organisms like societies and societies like organisms? ) In her spare time, she enjoys bicycling with her family, eating chocolate, and singing with the Festival Choir of Madison.