Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology

The Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology was created in 2018 to establish a permanent home for the humanities at CSHL, one of the world’s premier private, nonprofit scientific research institutions.

The Center promotes humanistic understandings of modern biology and medicine and offers a variety of educational programs. We organize public events, host virtual and physical exhibitions, and create and publish resources for popular and scholarly audiences. The center also awards a range of visiting fellowships and internships.

Since its inception the Center has also taken over CSHL’s oral-history initiative and the lab’s series of annual History of Science meetings, both of which are aimed at creating and preserving historical records to complement the material in our archives. The CSHL history meetings are distinctive in bringing participants who shaped a significant field of scientific research together with current practitioners, educators, and historians of that field. These activities have been supported by donors including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

The Center is guided by an advisory board of distinguished historians, scientific researchers, and biotechnology pioneers, including two Nobel laureates and two past presidents of the History of Science Society.

The Center is located in CSHL’s historic Carnegie Building alongside the library and archives. The archives preserve an internationally significant collection of primary material on the life sciences and medical research since 1890. In addition to institutional records from CSHL and a variety of precursor institutions and philanthropic organizations, the archives hold personal collections of nearly three dozen notable scientists from around the world.

Center initiatives:

              Oral history collection:

              Public outreach events:

              History of science meetings:

              Fellowship program:



Ludmila (Mila) Pollock, Executive Director

Founder of the CSHL Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology, Mila Pollock has been the Executive Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library & Archives since 1999. She received an MLS and an advanced degree in scientific retrieval and theory in Russia and a second MLS from St. John's University, NY. For over twenty years she has led many grant-funded projects and has been involved in creating a wide range of educational programs. Along with her work developing the CSHL library and archives, Mila has interviewed almost two hundred prominent international scientists in molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology (link: OH collection) and established the successful, internationally-attended, History of Science series of meetings hosted annually by the Center and the Meeting and Courses Department.

Alistair Sponsel, Ph.D., Historian of the Life Sciences

Alistair works as a liaison between humanities scholars (and other potential users of the CSHL historical collections) and the scientists and archives and library staff at CSHL. An experienced researcher and educator, he contributes to all the Center’s programming and outreach as well as pursuing scholarship in the diverse topics represented by CSHL’s historical collections. Before coming to CSHL he taught at Harvard and Vanderbilt universities and held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. His publications include the book Darwin’s Evolving Identity: Adventure, Ambition, and the Sin of Speculation (Chicago, 2018).

Tara Bonet-Black, Administrative Assistant


Chair: Richard Roberts, Director of Research
New England Biolabs
Nobel laureate

Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science
Harvard University

Elof Carlson, Historian and Professor Emeritus
Stony Brook University

Angela Creager, Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science
Princeton University

Walter Gilbert, Carl Loeb University Professor
Harvard University
Nobel laureate

Philip Goelet, President
Acidophil, LLC

John Hawkins, Vice Chairman and Board Director
Odgers Berndtson, LLC

Leroy Hood, President
Institute for Systems Biology

Jack Meyers, President
Rockefeller Archive Center

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Columbia University Medical Center

Mila Pollock, Executive Director, Library and Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Charlie Prizzi, VP Development, Government & Community Relations
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Bruce Stillman, President & CEO
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Waclaw Szybalski, Professor Emeritus, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Charles Weissmann, Chairman, Professor, Department of Infectology
Scripps, Florida Campus

Jan Witkowski, SBS Professor, Banbury Center
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory