I grew up in Agost, a small town near the Mediterranean Sea in Southeast Spain. My mother recalls that I came back from my first day of school very disappointed. I told her that the school was just a room full of children like myself: shy boys and girls who knew nothing. So, I asked her: “How am I going to learn anything?” The process of acquiring knowledge remained mysterious for me. When I learned the consonants and vowels, I went back to my mother: If I knew the letters, why didn’t I understand what the books said? Despite my puzzlement, I persevered. I’ve dedicated my life to reading and learning, though I still don’t understand what some books say.
I obtained my first Ph.D.degree in philosophy at the University of Valencia, Spain. After teaching philosophy at the University of Salamanca, and Arizona State University, I returned to school. This time I earned a Ph.D. in the history of science at Harvard University. I am now a professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, Canada.
In my intellectual pursuits, I have concentrated on understanding two issues: How do we know? And how should we live? My interest in exploring the social and moral implications of our knowledge about the world and ourselves led me to the history of the life sciences and later the history of psychology and psychiatry.
My approach combines intellectual history with socio-cultural history. While I deal with the dynamic formation of scientific views in detail, I also explore the social and cultural conditions under which scientific beliefs develop and shape norms, practices, and policies. My work is multidisciplinary, analyzing developments in several fields, including evolutionary biology, animal research, and psychology.
I have been a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a visiting scholar at the Department of History of Science at Harvard, a visiting researcher at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, and a member of the School for Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. I was a member of the History of Science Society Council and the history committee of the Society for Research on Child Development. I am now a vice president of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science. I serve on the editorial board of numerous journals, including Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Review of General Psychology, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, History of Psychology, and the Journal for the History of Biology.
My publications have appeared in the leading academic journals of my field, including ISIS, Journal of the History of Biology, British Journal for the History of Science, History of Psychiatry, and the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. My work has been supported by major grants (from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council), as well as by important institutions (Dibner Institute for the history of science, Cambridge, MA; Max Planck Institute for the history of science, Berlin; the Jackman Institute, Toronto; and the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton).