History of stem cell research first topic in Center for Humanities’ faculty lecture series

Jane Maienschein, Ph.D., the Regents’ Professor and Chair of the Program for Science and Society at Arizona State University, will speak on “From Transplantation to Translation: Why History Matters in Stem Cell Research” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, in Rebstock Hall, Room 322.

Maienschein is the first of six speakers appearing this spring as part of the Center for the Humanities’ 2008 Faculty Fellows’ Lecture and Workshop Series. Her talk will explore the rich historical background behind current stem cell debates — the first stem cell experiment was conducted more than a century ago — as well as recent and proposed legislation at both state and federal levels designed to either endorse or prohibit such research.

Maienschein was invited to campus by 2008 Faculty Fellow Garland Allen, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences. “She has done much to integrate the philosophy of science (in her special focus, developmental biology) with its history, and to use this synthetic approach to address questions of bioethics,” Allen said. “Her 2003 book, ‘Whose View of Life?’ addressed the question of when can ‘a human life,’ in an embryological sense, be said to begin?

“Historically, when a human embryo is claimed to be ‘human’ has changed over time and in different cultural contexts. Professor Maienschein uses this approach to throw light on current debates about embryonic stem cell research, cloning and other biotechnological controversies,” Allen said.

In addition to the lecture, Maienschein will lead a workshop titled “Embryos in Context” at noon Wednesday, Feb. 6, in Rebstock 322. Participants will receive an introduction to Arizona State’s Embryo Project, a collaborative international effort designed to record and share information about the history of stem cell research and its many contexts.

The Center for the Humanities’ Faculty Fellowships are designed to provide both physical and intellectual environments for innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. Winners are selected by a panel of University faculty and outside reviewers. Each will spend a semester in-residence researching a new book project, attending a variety of presentations and delivering one formal, public lecture.

Speakers for the 2008 series will include:

Feb. 20: Joseph Schraibman, Ph.D., professor of Romance languages & literatures in Arts & Sciences.

March 4: Garland Allen, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences.

March 24: Anat Biletzki, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, Israel, who also teaches in the Program on Human Rights and Justice at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

April 8: David Gitlitz, Ph.D., professor of Hispanic studies at the University of Rhode Island.

April 22: Marilyn Friedman, Ph.D., professor of philosophy in Arts & Sciences.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-5576 or e-mail cenhum@artsci.wustl.edu.