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FOLK – From racial types to DNA sequences

Professor Bonnevies arkiv

Overview: The exhibition "Professor Bonnevie's archive" was produced by the Museum for University and Science History in cooperation with The Science Library, both at the University of Oslo. It was held from May 23 to December 16, 2018.

"Professor Bonnevie's archive" put on display parts of the collection of Bonnevie's offprints, including source material of her research on fingerprints, genetics and race.

The exhibition raises questions about the relationship between ideas of race, race hygiene and science, and was connected to the exhibition FOLK at The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology.

  • Facebook Video: Curator for the exhibition and associate professor Jon Røyne Kyllingstad talks about the research of Kristine Bonnevie (in Norwegian).

Kristine Bonnevie (1872–1948) was Norway’s first female professor, and worked at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. She defended her doctoral thesis in 1906 and was appointed professor of zoology in 1912.

Kristine Bonnevie contributed to international research when mendelian genetics had its breakthrough in the beginning of the twentieth century. The emergence of genetics as an independent scientific field was, however, still intertwined with the rise of eugenics (or race hygiene). Leading geneticists assigned humans different values and attempted to improve humanity by preventing the ones considered genetically inferior from having children. The exhibition throws light on how Bonnevie – and the Norwegian and international scientific milieu – related to their contemporary eugenics and racial thinking.
This was the first time that such aspects of her research were discussed through an exhibition. The aim was not to contribute an ethical judgement of the past, but to invite for reflection on how science was – and continues to be – interwoven in complex social relationships. (The text was originally published in Norwegian here.)

Foto: Museum for universitets- og vitenskapshistorie, UiO.

Professor Kristine Bonnevie
Foto: Museum for universitets- og vitenskapshistorie, UiO.