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Piers Hale

OU Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, The University of Oklahoma wordmark
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Piers J. Hale

Associate Professor of the History of Science

Photographic portrait of Piers Hale
  • B.A. (Hons.) (First Class), History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Wales, 1993
  • M.A. (Distinction), Department of History, Lancaster University, England, 1995. 
  • Ph.D. Department of History, Lancaster University, England, 2003 

My research interests focus upon the ways in which the life sciences have contributed to the ways in which we think about what it means to be human. The science of biology has historically had so much to say about what is 'natural' for humans - both what is possible, and what is not; and, as our understandings of biology have changed, so too have our understandings of the limits of human possibility. Just one aspect of this that is pressing today is the way in which we think about genetic inheritance, gene-therapies and genetic-engineering, and how they potentially open up a whole new chapter in the ways in which we think about ourselves....

Contact Me

Piers J. Hale
Department of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
The University of Oklahoma
601 Elm, Room 625
Norman, OK 73019

Office Tel: 1-405-325-2213



Book cover of Political Descent: the politics of evolution in Victorian England by Piers Hale

Political Descent: Malthus, Mutualism and the Politics of Evolution in Victorian England. Chicago University Press, 2014. (nominated for the North American Victorian Studies Association award for ‘best book of 2014’)

Focuses upon British attempts to make sense of culture and politics in light of Darwinian evolution. This debate focused explicitly upon the evolution of sympathy, ethics, and the social nature of man. The kind of creature that we have evolved to become – or might evolve to become, was read as having significant implications for the kind of society in which we might live. This manuscript traces a political genealogy through the history of debate over human evolution from 1859 to the present.

In Progress:

Evolution as Parable: Charles Kingsley and the Water Babies, (with John Beatty.) [contract offered, Chicago University Press]

Focuses upon the nineteenth-century theologian and Christian socialist Charles Kingsley. An avid reader of Darwin and a close friend of Thomas Huxley, Kingsley thought seriously about evolution and its implications for humanity and Christianity, and he explored these ideas in a number of works and in his correspondence with contemporary men of science. His most deep and considered writing on this subject however, was the children's fairy story Water Babies (1863). We seek to draw attention to Kingsley and argue that he was a significant figure in the Darwinian Revolution. We are in the process of writing a book length manuscript on Kingsley and Water Babies, and also intend to publish a fully annotated and unabridged edition of Water Babies. In the future this project might extend to a new biography of Kingsley which would emphasize his place in the history of science.

Edited Volumes:

Piers J. Hale & Jonathan Smith, (eds.) Negotiating Boundaries. Victorian Science and Literature, vol. 1. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84893-091-9

Choice Magazine has awarded the first part of Victorian Science and Literature a 'Highly Recommended' tag. 

Articles and Book Chapters:

"Rejecting the Myth of the Non-Darwinian Revolution," Victorian Review, vol. 41, no. 2, 2015, pp. 13-18.

“Finding a Place for the Anti-Malthusian Tradition in the Victorian Evolution Debates” in Robert Mayhew (ed.), New Perspectives on Malthus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 182-207.

“Monkeys into Men and Men into Monkeys: Chance and Contingency in the Evolution of Man, Mind and Morals in Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies”, Journal of the History of Biology, (2013), 46:551-597. DOI: 10.1007/s10739-012-9345-5.

“Darwin's Other Bulldog: Charles Kingsley and the popularization of evolution in England,” Science and Education, (2011), DOI: 10.1007/s11191-011-9414-8.

“William Morris, Human Nature and the Biology of Utopia”. In Bennett P. & Miles R., (eds), William Morris in the Twenty-First Century, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010, pp.107-28. ISBN: 978-3-03430-106-0

“Of Mice and Men: Evolution and the Socialist Utopia. H.G. Wells, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw.” Journal of the History of Biology. 43, 1, 2010, pp.17-66.

“Water Babies: An Evolutionary Fairy Tale”, with John Beatty, Endeavour, Vol. 32, No.4, 2008, pp.141-46.

“The Search for Purpose in a Post-Darwinian Universe: George Bernard Shaw, ‘Creative Evolution’, and Shavian Eugenics: ‘The Dark Side of the Force’ ”. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 28, 2, (2006), 191-214.

“Labor and the human relationship with nature: The naturalization of politics in the work of Thomas Henry Huxley, Herbert George Wells, and William Morris”, Journal of the History of Biology, 36, 2, (2003): 249-284.