Sarah S. Richardson

John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences

Sarah S. Richardson is a historian and philosopher of science who studies race and gender in the life sciences and the social dimensions of scientific knowledge. She is the author of Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome (Chicago, 2013) and co-editor of Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age (Rutgers, 2008) and Postgenomics (Duke, forthcoming).  

Richardson’s recent book, Sex Itself, traces the history of genetic theories of sex differences from 1900 to the present. The book demonstrates how the human X and Y chromosomes became the pillars of a particular way of thinking about biological sex: as an unalterable binary encoded at the level of the genome. Over the course of the twentieth century, the X and Y became gendered objects of scientific knowledge, influencing understandings of human sex differences in biology and medicine. In the book’s concluding chapters, Richardson outlines key ethical, conceptual, and methodological issues in the expanding study of genomic sex differences today. 

Richardson’s current book project, with the working title The Maternal Mystique, is a history of maternal effects research. The term “maternal effects” refers to the influences of a mother’s behavior, exposures, and physiology on her offspring’s future health and development. Today, maternal effects research is an expanding field in medicine, public health, psychology, evolutionary biology, and genomics. The book will explore the intersection between the rise of maternal effects research in the life sciences and changing conceptions of motherhood, health citizenship, and genetic determinism in the twentieth century. 


Stanford University.  M.A., Ph.D., Modern Thought and Literature.  
Columbia University.  B.A., Philosophy.



Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome.
University of Chicago Press (2013).

"Sex Itself..." mentioned in Harvard Magazine, March-April 2014



Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age.
Rutgers University Press. (2008) (Ed. with Barbara Koenig and Sandra Lee)


Complete list of publications


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