logo Sphere
Logo Université Paris-Diderot Logo Université Paris1-Panthéon-Sorbonne


On this website

On the whole CNRS Web

Home > Members > Members Webpages > GRODWOHL Jean-Baptiste

GRODWOHL Jean-Baptiste

Associate Professor
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Université de Paris


- Research activities
- Teaching
- Representative publications
- Recent distinctions

Research activities

I specialize in the history of the modern life sciences, especially the sciences of population biology (population genetics, population ecology, community ecology, and the study of animal behaviour) in the twentieth century.

After a PhD at Paris Diderot University, I worked in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Japan. My current research concerns the place of mathematical models and parameter estimation in evolutionary biology, and, more specifically, population genetics. In the first decades of the twentieth century, this science assumed, with great effect, that the process of evolution can be aptly described as changes in genotype frequencies. Characterizing evolution this way has provided a coherent template for modelling and studying empirically the forces changing species. For this reason, it has led to a unified understanding of evolution common to the life sciences. However, the main tenets of this theory were laid out long before molecular methods provided insight into the molecular structure of the genes. I am interested to know how, and to what extent, population geneticists changed their modelling methods as they gradually learnt to cope with the molecules. I am currently writing a book on this subject, which surveys the works and careers of some prominent actors in this history (J.F. Crow, Motoo Kimura, R.C. Lewontin) and their labs, from WWII up until the recent population genomic projects of fruit flies.


I advise on Ms. dissertations on the history of biological sciences in France (paleontology, ecology), on the history of applied mathematics in the Cold War, and on the philosophy of statistics.

Representative publications

Grodwohl, J-B. (2020). “Animal Behavior, Population Biology and the Modern Synthesis (1955–1985)”. Journal of the History of Biology, 52(4): 597:633.

Grodwohl J-B., Franco Porto and Charbel El-Hani, (2018) “The Instability of Field Experiments in Ecology: Building an Experimental Culture on the Rocky Seashores (1950-1985)”, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 40(3): 1-27.

Grodwohl J-B. (2017) “Inclusive fitness Meets Population Structure: Modeling Social Evolution (1968-1973)”, Historical Studies of Natural Sciences, 47(1) :1-41.

Grodwohl, J. B. (2017). “‘The Theory was Beautiful Indeed’: Rise, Fall and Circulation of Maximizing Methods in Population Genetics (1930–1980)”. Journal of the History of Biology, 50(3), 571-608.

Grodwohl J-B. (2017) “Natural Selection, Adaptive Topographies and Statistical Inference: Putting the Moraba scurra Controversy under the Microscope”, Journal of the History of Biology, 50(4), 753-796.

Recent distinctions

2021 : Everett Mendelsohn Prize for the best paper published in the Journal of the History of Biology)

2020: Everett Mendelsohn Prize, “highly commended paper”.