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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 713: Vt-245: DVD-82

Papers of Evelyn Fox Keller, 1966-2013


Correspondence, speeches, teaching materials, articles, manuscript drafts, and electronic records of biologist, physicist, and author Evelyn Fox Keller.


  • Creation: 1966-2013


Language of Materials

Materials in English, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Danish, or French

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

#22.5 is closed until January 1, 2078, #23.6 is closed until January 1, 2079, and #23.9 is closed until January 1, 2080.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Evelyn Fox Keller is held by Evelyn Fox Keller. Upon her death, copyright will be transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. No material from the collection may be made available via the internet until 2020.


14.8 linear feet ((35 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 1 photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 2 videotapes, and 1 DVD)
3.25 Megabytes (20 files)

This collection documents Evelyn Fox Keller's professional life; very little personal material is included. It includes correspondence; teaching material, including syllabi, lecture notes, and reading packets; articles and speeches; correspondence, drafts, and interviews for her book on Barbara McClintock; photographs; and videotapes. Folder titles were created by the processor; Keller's titles, when used, appear in quotation marks.

Electronic records were received on forty one 3.5" disks and one 5.25" disk. The disks were imaged using FTK Imager. Selected data has been converted to PDF/A for preservation and delivery. These records, represented by #E.1-E.20, were added to the finding aid in June 2019 and appear in Series II.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1974-2005 (#1.1-1.12, 33.1-33.2, FD.1, PD.1, PD.2f+), includes articles re: Keller in a variety of languages and transcripts of interviews with her; awards and certificates; legal and financial material re: estate planning; correspondence with friends and with Keller's daughter Sarah, regarding travel and other activities; and photographs. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1966-2013 (#1.13-32.5, 33.3-36.18, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1, SD.1, Vt-245.1 - Vt-245.2, DVD-82, E.1-E.20), is arranged in four subseries and includes professional correspondence; conference and lecture material; syllabi, lecture notes, and other teaching material; articles and book reviews; proposals and grant applications for various writing projects; and material re: Keller's biography of Barbara McClintock.

Subseries A, Correspondence, 1966-2005 (#1.13-12.8, 33.3-33.11, E.1-E.2), is arranged first alphabetically and then chronologically. Correspondence includes reactions to speeches and books by Keller; information about upcoming conferences; invitations to join editorial boards; letters from students and colleagues requesting advice, or letters of recommendation; correspondence with publishers and editors; and correspondence re: the Keller-Segel Model, a framework for modeling bacterial chemotaxis that Keller developed with mathematician Lee Segel. Of particular note are Keller's reflections on the Women's Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley (#3.15) and the correspondence re: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's programs in Science, Technology, and Society and in Women's Studies (#2.8-3.1). Some correspondence is in French and German. For additional correspondence about speaking engagements and writing projects, see Subseries B and D.

Subseries B, Conferences and lectures, 1982-2005 (#12.9-19.7, 33.12-34.8, F+D.2, OD.1, SD.1, Vt-245.1- Vt-245.2, DVD-82.1, E.3-E.6), includes speech announcements; correspondence re: speaking engagements and conferences; speeches and speech abstracts; and conference materials. Keller spoke at venues ranging from commencement ceremonies to conferences on the future of nature. Her talks generally addressed issues of genetics, or gender and science, with titles including "Decoding the Genetic Program," "Gender, Language and Science," and "Demarcating Public from Private Values in Evolutionary Discourse." A number of folders contain only correspondence regarding the speaking engagement or conference; speeches are not always included. The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries C, Teaching, 1972-2004 (#19.8-27.5, 34.9-35.6, E.7), includes course descriptions; exams; syllabi; student papers re: gender and science; student evaluations; lecture notes; reading lists; and packets of readings for classes Keller taught at Purchase College, State University of New York; Cornell University; the University of California, Berkeley; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the California Institute of Technology. Class titles include "Man's Place in Nature," "Issues of Gender in the History of Science," and "Computers and Organisms." The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries D, Writings and research, 1974-2013 (#27.6-32.5, 35.7-36.18, F+D.1, E.8-E.20), includes articles, papers, and book reviews by Keller; book proposals; correspondence with editors, publishers, and translators; grant applications; and reader reviews. Of particular note are interviews of female Massachusetts Institute of Technology students re: their experiences at the Institute (#28.11) and the material re: Keller's biography of Barbara McClintock, a geneticist and leader in the development of maize cytogenetics. The McClintock material includes notes from Keller's interviews of McClintock (#29.3-29.5) and other scientists (#30.4); drafts (#29.13, 30.8-30.10); a paper Keller wrote about McClintock (#29.1); and Keller's letters to McClintock (#30.5). The subseries is arranged alphabetically.


Evelyn Fox Keller was born in New York City on March 20, 1936, the youngest child of Albert and Rachel (Paperny) Fox, Russian Jewish immigrants. She had two older siblings, Frances and Maurice; Frances Fox Piven became a notable sociologist, and Maurice, a geneticist and molecular biologist, married the photo researcher Sally Fox. Keller initially planned to become a psychoanalyst, having become interested in this field when Frances explained the concept of the unconscious to her. She studied theoretical physics at Brandeis University (BA 1957), and enrolled in graduate school at Harvard University, where she was one of only three female graduate students in the physics department. She received her Master's Degree from Radcliffe College in 1959, but, feeling persecuted by both her fellow students and the male faculty, was initially uncertain about continuing her studies. While on vacation with her brother Maurice and his family at Cold Springs Harbor, she visited the Long Island Biological Laboratories, and impressed and bolstered by her interactions with Max Delbruck and other biologists there, she returned to Harvard determined to complete her PhD by combining the studies of physics and molecular biology. She received her degree in 1963.

In 1963 she married the mathematician Joseph Bishop Keller. They had two children, Jeffrey and Sarah, and divorced in 1976. In 1962 she became an instructor in New York University's physics department; the following year she began part-time work as an assistant research scientist at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and as an associate professor at Cornell University's Graduate School of Medical Sciences; she held these appointments until 1963 and 1969, respectively. She subsequently held positions as an associate professor at New York University (1970-1972) and in the Natural Science Division at Purchase College, State University of New York (1972-1982; Chair, Mathematics Board of Study, 1972-1974). In 1982 she became professor of mathematics and humanities at Northeastern University and remained in this position until 1988, when she relocated to California as a professor, accepting a position in the Departments of Rhetoric, History, and Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1992, she has been a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has also held positions as special lecturer, fellow, and visiting professor at a number of institutions, including Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland, and the Radcliffe Institute. She has taught, lectured, and written in a number of fields, including the history and philosophy of science, mathematical and molecular biology, and theoretical physics. Keller's research focuses on the intersection of science and gender, and on the philosophy and history of modern biology.

She serves on the editorial boards of various journals including the Journal of the History of Biology and Biology and Philosophy, and is the author of A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983), Reflections on Gender and Science (1985), Three Cultures: Fifteen Lectures on the Confrontation of Academic Cultures (1989), Secrets of Life/Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender and Science (1992), Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-century Biology (1995), Feminism and Science (co-edited with Helen Longino, 1996), Keywords in Evolutionary Biology (co-edited with Elisabeth Lloyd, 1998), The Century of the Gene (2000), Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines (2002), and The Mirage of a Space between Nature and Nurture (2010). Her work has been translated into a number of languages. She has been awarded many academic and professional honors, including elected membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, a MacArthur Fellowship Foundation award, and the Blaise Pascal Research Chair by the Préfecture de la Région D'Ile-de-France. In 2012 she was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1974-2005 (#1.1-1.12, 33.1-33.2, FD.1, PD.1, PD.2f+)
  2. Series II. Professional, 1966-2013 (#1.13-32.5, 33.3-36.18, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1, SD.1, Vt-245.1 - Vt-245.2, DVD-82, E.1-E.20)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2005-M88, 2008-M215, 2008-M216, 2022-M211

The papers of Evelyn Fox Keller were given to the Schlesinger Library by Evelyn Fox Keller between August 2005 and December 2022.

Processing Information

Processed: August 2012

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Suzanna Calev

Updated and electronic records added: June 2019

By: Susan Earle

Additional materials added: January 2023

By: Johanna Carll

Keller, Evelyn Fox, 1936- . Papers of Evelyn Fox Keller, 1966-2013: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957 and from the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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