Intellectual Pursuits of Nicolas Rashevsky

The Queer Duck of Biology

  • Maya M. Shmailov

Part of the Science Networks. Historical Studies book series (SNHS, volume 55)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxi
  2. Maya M. Shmailov
    Pages 39-63
  3. Maya M. Shmailov
    Pages 93-131
  4. Maya M. Shmailov
    Pages 133-180
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 181-199

About this book


Who was Nicolas Rashevsky? To answer that question, this book draws on Rashevsky’s unexplored personal archival papers and shares interviews with his family, students and friends, as well as discussions with biologists and mathematical biologists, to flesh out and complete the picture.

“Most modern-day biologists have never heard of Rashevsky. Why?” In what constitutes the first detailed biography of theoretical physicist Nicolas Rashevsky (1899-1972), spanning key aspects of his long scientific career, the book captures Rashevsky’s ways of thinking about the place mathematical biology should have in biology and his personal struggle for the acceptance of his views. It brings to light the tension between mathematicians, theoretical physicists and biologists when it comes to the introduction of physico-mathematical tools into biology. Rashevsky’s successes and failures in his efforts to establish mathematical biology as a subfield of biology provide an important test case for understanding the role of theory (in particular mathematics) in understanding the natural world.

With the biological sciences moving towards new vistas of inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborations and research programs, the book will appeal to a wide readership ranging from historians, sociologists, and ethnographers of American science and culture to students and general readers with an interest in the history of the life sciences, mathematical biology and the social construction of science.


mathematical biology outsiders Nicolas Rashevsky biomathematics trading zones theory versus experiment mathematization of life sciences

Authors and affiliations

  • Maya M. Shmailov
    • 1
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary UnitBar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
  • Publisher Name Birkhäuser, Cham
  • eBook Packages Mathematics and Statistics
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-39921-8
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-39922-5
  • Series Print ISSN 1421-6329
  • Series Online ISSN 2296-6080
  • Buy this book on publisher's site