UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Serpente, Norberto

STS Honorary Research Associate (email)


Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Cells from Icons to Symbols: Molecularising Cell Biology in the 1980s. PhD thesis. University College London. (link)


Serpente, Norberto. 2015. Justifying molecular images in cell biology textbooks: From constructions to primary data. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, (September 2015) | doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.08.007

Serpente, Norberto. 2015. More than a Mentor: Leonard Darwin's Contribution to the Assimilation of Mendelism into Eugenics and Darwinism. Journal of the History of Biology, 1-34 (September 2015) | doi:10.1007/s10739-015-9423-6

Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Cells from icons to symbols: molecularizing cell biology in the 1980s. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 12/2011; 42(4):403-11.

Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Beyond a pedagogical tool: 30 years of Molecular Biology of the Cell. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 14, 120-125 (February 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrm3513.

Research interests

I am interested in the cultures of image creation for the production of knowledge in the biosciences. I completed a PhD dissertation in October 2011 on the changing visualities of cell biology as a result of the molecular revolution of the 1970s. The findings on this visual change entailing a superseding of the optical image by the molecular image were framed in current debates on the historical dimension of objectivity and representation in science as well as the specificity of scientific selves for the existence of different epistemic cultures. I engaged my findings on the images contained in cell biology textbooks with semiotics and simulation theory to propose a change of modality from iconic to symbolic and the concomitant emergence of a self-referential system in the discipline. My postdoctoral work concentrates on the conditions of emergence and sustainability of molecular imagery. I am investigating the tensions between the ‘intelligible’ and the ‘practical’ during the making of images, the way molecular images are ‘justified’, alongside the centrality of pedagogy for the justification of scientific claims in cell studies.

My other research interests are: a) the historical development of ideas on the evolutionary theory from the 19th century to the present, b) the history and development of bio molecular sciences in Argentina (1950-1990) and its intertwinement with wider political processes, c) the role of patients pressure groups on biotechnological developments and therapies (1950 to date).