Alex Aylward

Alex Aylward


I'm a PhD student in the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, within the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science. I began my undergraduate career studying the life sciences, but soon migrated into History and Philosophy of Science. After completing my undergraduate and masters studies at the University of Cambridge, I joined the PhD program at the University of Leeds in 2016.

I have given invited talks in the following settings:

  • 'What is Theoretical Population Genetics For? The Curious Case of R. A. Fisher' - Charles University Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Seminar in Theoretical Biology, 17th May 2018 (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • 'From Natural Histories to Manmade Futures: The Origins and Ends of R. A. Fisher's Darwinism' - University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cabinet Of Natural History, 20th November 2017 (Cambridge, UK)

I have also presented my research at a variety of conferences and seminars, around the United Kingdom and beyond:

  • 'Getting personal in the pre-synthesis period: R A Fisher, selection, and the new genetics, 1910-1930' - European Society for the History of Science Biennial Conference, September 2019 (London, UK)
  • 'Population genetics as a human science: Eugenics at the dawn of the modern synthesis' - British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, April 2018 (Manchester, UK)
  • 'R. A. Fisher and the generality of selection' - The Generalized Theory of Evolution, Jan-Feb 2018 (Düsseldorf, Germany)
  • 'Not a 'book on evolution': Reason(s) and representation in science and HPS' - Get Real! Realism as a goal for the sciences and for HPS, September 2017 (Leeds, UK)
  • ''... a veritable key of the future': The nature of selection in R. A. Fisher (1890-1962)' - British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, July 2017 (York, UK)
  • ''Beyond versus': Towards a resolution of the contingentism vs. inevitabilism debate' - Annual UK Integrated History and Philosophy Workshop, June 2017 (Nottingham, UK)
  • 'How Fisher became Fisherian: The making of the populational gene' - University of Leeds HPS Work-in-Progress seminar, June 2017 (Leeds, UK)
  • 'H. G. Wells and the identity of the 'scientist,' 1895-1925: Negotiations in Nature and the novel' - British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, April 2017 (Florence, Italy)
  • 'The vitalism controversy at the Royal College of Surgeons, 1814-19: How IHPS can bring new life to a controversy about life (which has been done to death)' - The Past, Present and Future of IHPS: An International Postgraduate Forum, January 2017 (Leeds, UK)
  • 'What's in a word? H. G. Wells and the identity of the 'scientist' in British popular writing, 1895-1925' - International Conference on Science and Literature, September 2016 (Poellau, Austria)
  • 'Between distance and domination: Feminism, experimentalism, and the manipulation of nature' - British Society for the Philosophy of Science Annual Conference, July 2016 (Cardiff, UK) and London Philosophy of Science Graduate Conference, September 2016 (London, UK)
  • 'The vitalism controversy in early nineteenth-century Britain: Packaged-histories and faulty fault-lines' - British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, January 2016 (Cambridge, UK)
  • 'Does Hacking get the most from his microscopes?' - Congress on Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, August 2015 (Helsinki, Finland)

Alongside my research, I have taught on the following undergraduate courses:

In October 2017, I ran a regular reading group for members of the public at Ilkley Literature Festival, in which we read and discussed H. G. Wells' classic scientific romance, The Time Machine (1895).

Also in October 2017, along with Matthew Holmes, I designed and delivered a public lecture, 'A cupboard of dead bugs: Life lessons from insects for economics, empire and evolution', as part of the HPS in 20 Objects series. You can watch the lecture online, here:

I am a member of the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS), the European Society for the History of Science (ESHS), the History of Science Society (HSS), and the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB).

I am the recipient of the following awards and scholarships:

  • University of Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship, 2016-2019
  • Newton College Masters Scheme Studentship, 2015-2016
  • University of Cambridge Jacob Bronowski Prize in History and Philosophy of Science, 2015
  • Christ's College, University of Cambridge, Darwin Prize in Natural Sciences, 2015


Research interests

My current doctoral research focuses upon British geneticist and statistician Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962). Fisher is widely thought to be a founding father of modern evolutionary theory, and his 1930 book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection has been hailed as a foundational text of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis. However, we lack a systematic historical account of this work, and Fisher’s thought generally. My thesis tracks historical emergence and development of the ideas in Fisher’s magnum opus, contextualising the book’s writing in the context of debates over the mechanism of evolution, the status of the new science of genetics, the British eugenics movement, and the emerging role of mathematics in biology. In addition, I critically assess the twentieth-century legacy of Fisher and The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection

More generally, my research interests include:

  • History and Philosophy of Biology
  • History of Eugenics
  • Philosophy of History & Historiography
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Literature

Visit my page here:


  • MPhil History, Philosophy & Sociology of Science, Technology & Medicine
  • BA Natural Sciences

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for History and Philosophy of Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science