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Betty Smocovitis

Office: 617 Carr Hall & 205 Keene-Flint Hall
Phone: 352-392-9647
Fax: 352-392-6927
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Mailing address:
Department of History
University of Florida
P.O. Box 117320
Gainesville, FL 32611-7320

Professor Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis received her Honours BSc degree from the University of Western Ontario in Biology with an area of concentration in the plant sciences. She completed her PhD in the graduate field of ecology and evolutionary biology and in the new Program for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at Cornell University. She joined the history department at UF in 1988 and has been teaching a range of courses in the history of science since then. In 2004 she also joined the Zoology department at UF (now merged with Botany to form Biology) where she developed new courses in biology and society and in the philosophy of biology. Her most popular courses at UF include the History of Evolutionary Thought; Science, Eploration and Empire; and the History and Evolution of Infectious Disease. She has also developed a series of graduate seminars in the history of biology and in the cultural history/cultural study of scientific knowledge. She has been a recipient of a range of teaching awards at all levels at UF that include the outstanding university teaching award in 1997. In recognition of her record of teaching and scholarship, she was named the UF Distinguished Alumni Professor for 2009-2011, one of the highest honors given to UF faculty.

Professor Smocovitis’s research efforts are focused on gaining a greater understanding of the historical event known as the “evolutionary synthesis” from the perspective of the new intellectual/cultural history of science. Her areas  of expertise include the history of modern evolutionary biology, genetics, systematics, paleontology and ecology, and the history of American botany in the twentieth century. In 1996 she published Unifying Biology: the Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology with Princeton University Press. It was designated as one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Books of 1997. She has published extensively in the history of evolution, the history of genetics and in the history of botany with articles and reviews appearing in IsisOsirisHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences,Journal of the History of BiologyHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences,American Journal of BotanySocial Epistemology, and Taxon along with Science,Nature and the Quarterly Review of Biology. She is currently working at gaining greater understanding of the relationship between botany and the “evolutionary synthesis” through a biographical study of the chief “architect,” George Ledyard Stebbins. With plant systematist Daniel Crawford, she co-edited a collection of Stebbins’s most important scientific papers as well as co-editing an autobiography left uncompleted at the time of his death in 2000. She has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society. In 1990-92, she was Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University and in 2001 she was elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has served on a number of editorial boards including Isis, Osiris, Journal of the History of Biology, Social Epistemology, the Mendel Newsletter, Neusis, and Museum History Journal. As Associate Editor for the New Dictionary for the History of Ideas, she was responsible for the history of science and served as Editor-in-Chief of “Studies in Botanical History,” a monograph series with the New York Botanical Garden Press. She has also been active in a range of professional societies where she has been an elected officer including The History of Science Society, The Society for the Study of Evolution , The Botanical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, having just retired as Chair of Section L, History and Philosophy of Science.

Professor Smocovitis is an avid traveler, has delivered lectures all over the world, and has held formal appointments at Stanford University, the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science (MITHE) at the University of Athens in Athens, Greece, and the National Museum and Art Gallery in Papua New Guinea as well as being visitor at Cornell University and Emory University.  For 2008-2009, she served as Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, visiting nine college and university campuses in the US in addition to serving as the Michael Zeltzerman Visiting Lecturer at the University of Vermont.