Evelyn Fox Keller, regarded as America's foremost scholar on issues of science and gender and recent winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, has joined the MIT faculty as a professor of science studies.
Dr. Keller, who has been a professor at the University of California at Berkeley since 1988, will teach and do research at MIT in the Program in Science, Technology and Society, a part of the School of Humanities and Social Science. She has been a visiting fellow, scholar and professor at MIT on three separate occasions, totalling almost seven years.
"The appointment of Evelyn Fox Keller will help to ensure MIT's national and international leadership in science and technology studies for years to come," said Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science.
Dr. Keller's fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago was one of 33 awarded in June to "exceptionally gifted individuals." It was the first time since the fellowships were created in 1981 that female recipients outnumbered men, 17 to 16.
That milestone was particularly appropriate in the case of Professor Keller whose recent work has been concerned with the influence of ideologies of gender on the practice of science. This influence "permeates science in very complex ways," she said, raising issues about the way science is both practiced and taught.
Professor Keller, whose broad field of research is the history and philosophy of science, said she hadn't yet decided exactly how she will use her $335,000 MacArthur award. The foundation established the awards to free recipients from economic constraints so they can develop their potential. The amounts differ, with the youngest recipients receiving smaller awards. The recipients can use the grants, which are paid out over five years, in any way they choose.
Professor Keller, 56, said some of the money will go for her own research. She also wants "to support other interdisciplinary scholars who have had a hard time finding a place in the academy," she said, adding "I haven't decided how to do that."
No stranger to MIT, Professor Keller even has a brother and nephew on the faculty-Maurice S. Fox, professor of biology, and his son, Jonathan A. Fox, associate professor of political science.
Professor Keller, who was born in New York City, received her BA from Brandeis University in 1957, MA from Radcliffe College in 1959 and PhD from Harvard University's Department of Physics in 1963. Her many academic and professional honors include an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Mt. Holyoke College in 1991.
She has held a number of permanent and visiting faculty posts, which include six years from 1982 to 1987 as professor of mathematics and humanities at Northeastern University. She also has taught at New York University, Cornell University, University of Maryland, State University of New York at Purchase, Northwestern University and Princeton University.
She has received numerous grants and fellowships and served on many editorial boards and professional committees.
Her more than 70 publications include two well-known books, Reflections on Gender and Science (Yale University Press, 1985) and A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (W. H. Freeman, 1983). A new book, Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death, is due to be published by Routledge Press later this year.
Professor Keller has two children, Sarah, 26, a journalist, and Jeffrey, 27, a graduate student in computer science.
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 1).