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David Sepkoski

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Contact Information

History, 301 Greg Hall
810 S. Wight Street M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801



David Sepkoski is the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in History of Science at the University of Illinois.  He specializes in transnational history of biological, environmental, and information sciences in cultural context.

Sepkoski's most recent book is Catastrophic Thinking: Extinction and the Value of Diversity (University of Chicago Press, 2020).  He is also the author of Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline (Chicago, 2012) and Nominalism and Constructivism in Seventeenth-Century Natural Philosophy (Routledge, 2007), as well as several edited volumes and special journal issues.  

His current research focuses on the history of scientific and cultural debates about the biological basis for human nature and difference. In 2020-21 he held a Guggenheim Fellowship for his project "The Politics of Human Nature: Biological Determinism from Sociobiology to the Human Genome." He also has research interests in the history of data and information, and in the cultural and techological history of electronic music.

Research Interests

History of Science


PhD, Program in History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota
MA, Social Sciences, University of Chicago
BA, Carleton College

Additional Campus Affiliations

Thomas M. Siebel Endowed Chair, History
Professor, History
Professor, School of Information Sciences

Recent Publications

Sepkoski, D. (2021). Databases. In A. Blair, P. Duguid, A.-S. Goeing, & A. Grafton (Eds.), Information: A Historical Companion (pp. 392-396). Princeton University Press.

Sepkoski, D. (2021). Review: L. Barnett's After the Flood: Imagining the Global Environment in Early Modern Europe. ISIS, 112(1), 186-187.

Sepkoski, D. C. (2020). Catastrophic Thinking: Extinction and the Value of Diversity from Darwin to the Anthropocene. University of Chicago Press.

Sepkoski, D. (2019). The Unfinished Synthesis? Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology in the 20th Century. Journal of the History of Biology, 52(4), 687-703.

Sepkoski, D., & Tamborini, M. (2018). "An image of science": Cameralism, statistics, and the visual language of natural history in the nineteenth century. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 48(1), 56-109.

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