Department of History and the College
Emily Kern is a historian of science, with a specialty in the intellectual and cultural history of anthropology, evolution, and the life sciences. Her current book project, “The Cradle of Humanity: Science and the Making of African Origins,” explores how the African continent became the “cradle of humankind” and the pre-eminent site for human evolutionary research that it is today. Until the 1950s, it was generally believed that the human species first evolved in Asia, not Africa—an idea that was deeply rooted in European intellectual traditions. Kern argues that the story of humanity’s African origin is linked necessarily with the transformation of Africa itself as an object of historical and scientific inquiry.
She is also co-editing New Earth Histories (forthcoming), which explores how multiple world societies have constructed ideas about time, the earth, and the origins of the cosmos, and how those ideas continue to shape the modern world today.
Kern earned her MA and PhD in the history of science at Princeton University, where she was also a postgraduate research associate. Her dissertation won the Division of History of Science and Technology dissertation prize from the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. Most recently, she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the New Earth Histories research program at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.