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I am a retired associate professor of the Section of History of Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and I was an honorary professor at the Centre for Science Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark. I taught history of science courses to science undergraduates and graduates. I was the editor of Centaurus, the Official Journal of the European Society for the History of Science and head of the VU-wide Stevin Centre for History of Science and Humanities (


I am intrigued by the penetration of statistical and probabilistic thinking in the various sciences as well as in society. The quantifying spirit arose in the late Middle Ages in Western Society and attached itself to numerous distinct areas. My main concern is with the various ways in which statistical approaches as well as their domains of application were transformed in the process of mutual adaptation. I co-edited several volumes on this phenomenon in The Netherlands in the period 1750-1940: The Statistical Mind in a Pre-Statistical Era. The Netherlands 1750-1850 (1 vol.) and The Statistical Mind in Modern Society. The Netherlands 1850-1940 (2 vol.).  

The discipline of genetics emerged in the first decades after 1900. I studied Hugo de Vries and Tine Tammes. Both attained innovative results through statistical and probabilistic thinking.

Tammes’ work was undervalued; she suffered from what Margaret Rossiter has coined the ‘Matilda effect’ in science.

Tammes was the first female professor at the University of Groningen. I am writing a biography about her and to facilitate that I became a guest researcher at the Museum of the University of Groningen.

Tammes was not the only female contributing to genetics. The important role of female researchers in the early history of genetics is the subject of a collective project with Marsha Richmond (USA). The Journal of the History of Biology published a group of papers on this topic (JHB 40, 2007, nr. 3).

I am also concerned with the more general issue of women and gender in science. With Annemarie de Knecht-van Eekelen, I edited Gewina 20 (1997) nr. 4 entitled ‘She is very talented, after all’. In the issue the process of exclusion and inclusion of women in science in The Netherlands is described and analyzed.

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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality


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