Bernal Prize 2019: Emily Martin

The 2019 Bernal Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science goes to Emily Martin, professor emerita of anthropology at New York University.

The John Desmond Bernal Prize is a career award for distinguished contributions to the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Professor Martin’s contributions to STS have been expansive, highlighting the role of gender in science and the importance of feminist studies of science.

Emily Martin received an undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Michigan in 1966 and completed her PhD at Cornell University in 1971. Since then, she has had an amazingly rich career with positions at several US universities (including Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Yale, and University of California Irvine), where she taught a wide array of courses. She has conducted field work in different settings and lectured in many countries. She has served as board member in commissions inside and outside the university, and has been the President of the American Ethnological Society. She has also played an active editorial role in many journals, including Science, Technology and Human Values, Science as Culture, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal, Subjectivity, Anthropology Now and Anthropology Book Forum. Throughout her career, Emily Martin has published 10 books and over 100 articles, some of them reprinted several times and translated into different languages.

One of Martin’s articles The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles is especially widely taught and is one of the most widely taught articles STS.   It has been translated into eight languages and reprinted in twenty-one edited volumes. In this piece, as in much of her writing, Martin makes evident how deeply entrenched gender stereotypes give shape to laboratory science—which, in turn, return with powerful force to shape society.

Emily Martin’s work helped shape feminist studies of science and her mentoring has influenced a generation of feminist science studies scholars working on a wide array of topics (sexuality, race, pregnancy, mental illness, money, nationalism, and immunology, for example).  The work documents the role of power in science and exhibits a  strong commitment to social justice. As one of her former students puts it: Martin’s scholarship exemplifies the practice of questioning vested categories for which science studies has become known. At the same time, she has never just destabilized science— she is also involved in the project of reassembling science in ways to make for better worlds. For her commitment to her students, she was awarded the NYU Faculty Award for Teaching and Mentoring Graduate Students in 2007.

Martin’s work has been characterized by methodological and analytic innovation. In Flexible Bodies, for example, she mixed ethnography with history and cultural studies to offer insights into the production of science in/as capitalism. In Biopolar Expeditions she took this experiment further, mixing thick description of the researcher’s own positionality — and the very notion of the human-as-subject — into the fold of questions to be explored.

In December 2018, Martin and her work were profiled by The New Yorker, bringing to wider public attention her current research on experimental psychologists and the field of STS at large. Her engagement in the public sphere will continue to inspire new generations of STS researchers.


Bernal Prize Committee Members: Joan Fujimura (4S President Elect), Aadita Chaudhury (4S Council), Hsin-Hsing Chen (4S Council), Noela Invernizzi (4S Council, Chair).

Acceptance Statement

I am very grateful to the Nomination Committee and to the 4S. I have been the beneficiary of the hugely inspiring stimulus that STS provided to anthropology, initially through the pioneering cross-disciplinary work of colleagues, including Donna Haraway, Laura Nader, Lucy Suchman, and Sharon Traweek. I cannot emphasize enough how my work was lifted by a wave of scholars, among them Clifford Geertz and Bruno Latour, who provided opportunities for anthropologists to participate in ongoing research in STS, and, in turn, for ethnographic methods to affect STS. Opening these doors also depended on grant support from foundations like Wenner-Gren as well as organizations like the Institute for Advanced Study, the School for Advanced Research, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute, for their support of conferences that brought scholars from STS together with anthropologists. It has been an exciting journey and it is humbling to receive this prize, when my work rested on the shoulders of so many.

In anthropology the study of health and illness or ritual and politics seemed to me like receptors ready to be activated by the STS transmitters belonging to 4S. My own work has increasingly moved from anthropology-centric questions to STS-centric ones. Years ago, I was gently chastised by a senior STS scholar for not staying put in a scientific lab, but instead wandering all over the social and cultural landscape. As it turned out, it took me over 20 years to finally feel able to carry out a project that has been almost entirely centered on the scientific labs of experimental psychology. It is extremely rewarding to see the emergence of new generations of anthropology students who start learning STS literature from their first days in graduate school. It is therefore a tremendous honor to be nominated as recipient of the 2019 J.D. Bernal Prize. I thank you for the honor.


Emily Martin received her PhD from the anthropology department of Cornell University and taught at University of California, Irvine, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and Princeton University before moving to New York University, where she is now Emerita Professor of anthropology. Her ethnographic projects have ranged from the anthropology of health and medicine to the history of the experimental method and the concept of data in experimental psychology. Her books include The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction (Beacon Press 1987), Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture From the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (Beacon Press, 1994), Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture (Princeton University Press, 2007), and the 1986 Lewis Henry Morgan lectures, The Meaning of Money in China and the United States (University of Chicago Press, 2015). An Anthropologist Among the Psychologists is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. She is the founding editor of the general interest publication, Anthropology Now.