Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Yale University
Website URL
Global histories of biology, ecology, medicine, and anthropology since 1945; genomics and kinship; history of bioethics; biomedical technology, big data, and computing; feminist, indigenous, and queer theory; science fiction
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I am a historian of “biological futures”—the ideas, materials, ethics, and practices that have shaped contemporary systems of knowledge about life and its potential. I write about forward-looking projects in biomedicine, anthropology, computing, and ecology in the 20th century through the present.

My books, Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood (Chicago, 2017) and Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (co-edited with Emma Kowal, MIT: 2017) examine how efforts to freeze life have profoundly reorganized relationships between life and time, from medical research, to reproduction, to environmental conservation, and to the quest for immortality. I devote special attention to Cold War-era scientists’ desire to preserve blood from Indigenous peoples and the ethical and epistemological conflicts that have ensued.

This work has led me to publish on the history of anthropological research in the USthe medical history of Big Data and the ethics of biobanking in the US and Australia.

I am at work on a new book that draws on the career of the Harvard trained MD-turned-best-selling-author, Michael Crichton to rewrite the history of ideas about risk, facts, gender and the nature of expertise within and beyond scientific institutions.

Recent Publications

Joanna Radin. “Congress grilled Mark Zuckerberg, but lawmakers really should look in the mirror” The Washington Post (2018)

Joanna Radin. Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood (University of Chicago Press, 2017)

“Her sharply original history focuses on serum collected from indigenous communities and frozen during the cold war. Some samples have had a starry afterlife: one from the Belgian Congo, taken in 1959, later became the oldest trace of HIV/AIDS on record. Radin sweeps from the emergence of cryonics to the rise of genomics — and from burning ethical debates over indigenous rights to ancestral remains.”

Paige Williams | The New Yorker
“Radin discusses the background of refrigeration technology and the curious connection between Christianity and cryobiology, and she adds information on the ongoing debate concerning the ethics of scientific exploitation and informed consent. What resonated with me most was learning how this vast collection of blood and tissue samples affects nuclear preparedness.”

Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal. Cyropolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (MIT, 2017)

Joanna Radin. “Digital Natives: How Medical and Indigenous Histories Matter for Big Data” Osiris (2017)

Joanna Radin. “Where Nothing Can Possibly Go Worng” The New Inquiry (2016)


Media Coverage
Country Focus
US in the World
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
7, 8, 9
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Colonialism, Environment, Family, Gender, Indigenous Peoples, Libraries & Archives, Medicine, Race, Science, Technology