William Kimler

Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Programs and Advising

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Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor

B.A., Rice University
M.S., Cornell University
Ph.D., Cornell University

I received the B.A. in biology from Rice University, and the M.S. in ecology at Cornell University. I worked as a field ecologist in industry before my doctoral work. I received my Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 1983, with a dissertation on the history of debates amongst evolutionists over Darwinian explanations of animals' mimetic coloration. I was a National Science Foundation NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leeds, investigating the history of genetics and ecology in twentieth century Britain. I came to NCSU in 1986.



My research interest is the history of evolutionary ideas, with an emphasis on natural history, ecology, genetics, and behavior. I have published historical articles in the Journal of the History of Biology and in science journals such as American Zoologist. My latest piece is an essay review of the history of the infanticide controversy in primatology (Annals of Science, 2012).  For the Darwin centennial in 1982, I contributed to Dimensions of Darwinism (1983). I have published reviews in British Journal for the History of Science, Isis, Journal of the History of Biology, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Configurations, Metascience, North Carolina Historical Review, and American Scientist. I have articles in several professional encyclopedias, including the Dictionary of Scientific Biography and Sciences of the Earth. I am currently completing a book on how Charles Darwin has been used as a symbol of science and the idea of evolution.

If you'd like to hear a short discussion about Darwin and science, listen to the interview on WKNC (sorry, musical selections deleted).



I teach courses on the history of biology (HI 481: History of the Life Sciences) and on the history of Darwinism (HI 482/582: Darwinism in Science & Society), and the history of science survey course (HI 322: Rise of Modern Science). I am a core faculty member in the interdisciplinary  W. M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology.  With colleagues in the department of Biology, I periodically teach a reading course for grad students on Darwin.  I have also taught in the graduate MALS program, and served on its advisory committee.

I am the Director of  the Jefferson Scholars, a program for students taking a degree in both the College of Humanities & Social Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I serve as faculty mentor for the Jefferson Scholars, and teach an Honors seminar course on the history of biology for them. 

In May 2001, I was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, and inducted into the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers.

In May 2006, I was named Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor.



Professor Kimler accepts graduate students working on topics related to nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of science, especially history of biology or medicine.

Graduate Advisees

Recent Work & Publications

  • “Mimicry: Views of naturalists and ecologists before the Modern Synthesis..” in Dimensions of Darwinism, ed. Marjorie Grene (Cambridge University Press, 1983) pp. 97-127
  • “Henry Walter Bates.” in Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, ed. Michael Ruse and James Travis (Harvard University Press, 2009) pp. 444-47
  • “Review of Iain McCalman, Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution.” Journal of World History , no. 21 (2010): 158-60
  • “Review of Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822–1859, and Evolution: Selected Letters of.” Integrative and Comparative Biology , no. 48 (2008): 874-75
  • “Review of Carl von Linné [Linnaeus], Nemesis Divina.” British Journal for the History of Science , no. 38 (2005): 227-28
  • “Review of John A. Moore, From Genesis to Genetics: The Case of Evolution and Creationism.” Isis , no. 95 (2004): 337-38
  • “Rebanar la sexualidad con una hoja darwiniana.” El Mercurio (Santiago de Chile) , no. 2 March (2003): E14-15
  • “Review of Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is.” Configurations , no. 11 (2003): 272-74
  • “Review of M. Martin, A Long Look at Nature: The North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences.” North Carolina Historical Review , no. 79 (2002): 109-110
  • “Review of Michael A. Salmon, The Aurelian Legacy.” Journal of the History of Biology , no. 34 (2001): 585-96
  • “Review of Lester D. Stephens, Science, Race, and Religion in the American South.” North Carolina Historical Review , no. 77 (2000): 389-90
  • “Reading Morgan’s Canon: Reduction and unification in forging a science of the mind.” American Zoologist , no. 40 (2000): 853-61
  • “Taxonomy and the personal equation: The historical fates of Charles Girard and Louis Agassiz.” Journal of the History of Biology , no. 32 (1999): 509-555
  • “Review of Peter Bowler, Deleting Darwin.” NCSE (2013)
  • “Narratives and Visual Representations in a Persistent Vision of Tropical Abundance.” International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences of Biology, Visions of Tropical Diversity. University of Utah, Salt Lake City. (July, 2011)
  • “Envisioning the Tropics: Domesticating the Exotic through 19th-century Popular Natural History.” AHA Annual Meeting, Session: Visualizing Narrative: Place and Space. Boston, MA. (January, 2011)
  • “On \'Darwin\'s Darkest Hour\'.” Society for Advancement of Chicanos & Native Americans in Science Annual Conference, Event: Exploring Issues in Evolution and Ecology Through Film. Anaheim, CA. (September, 2010)
  • “Envisioning the Tropics: Domesticating the Exotic through 19th-century Popular Natural History.” Visualizing Narrative; Narrativizing the Visual. NC State University. (March, 2010)
  • “Darwin and the Path to Discovery.” Science Cafe. NC Museum of Natural Sciences. (March, 2010)
  • “Interdisciplinarity, Scientific Reasoning, and the Accomplishment of Charles Darwin.” Freshman Focus Program, on the Power of Ideas. Duke University. (December, 2009)
  • “Charles Darwin and the Image of Genius, Then and Now.” Faculty Current Research. NCSU Librarians Association. (December, 2009)
  • “Comments on \'Re: Design\' by Craig Baxter.” Premiere: \'Re: Design\'. University Theatre. (November, 2009)
  • “The Genius of Charles Darwin: From Natural History to a New Biology.” Friends of the Arboretum Lecture. JC Raulston Arboretum. (May, 2009)
  • “Darwin on His 200th Birthday.” Tom Kearney Show. WPTF Radio. (February, 2009)
  • “What Science Studies Has to Say about the Creationism-Evolution Debate.” Seminar, Division of Biological Sciences. Clemson University. (August, 2008)
  • “Darwin the Botanist.” Darwin Day. NC Botanical Garden. (February, 2008)
  • “Charles Darwin and the Image of ‘Genius’.” Darwin Day. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology at NC State. (February, 2007)

Contact Information

  • Office Location

    Withers 474

  • Phone: 919-513-2238
  • Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Office Hours

    Tuesday 3:00 - 5:00, Wednesday 1:30 - 4:00

    And by appointment

    (email is best contact)


Current Semester

HI 322-002
T H   130-245PM
WI 115

HI 481-001H
T H   1015-1130
WI 243

HI 581-001
T H   1015-1130
WI 243

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350 Withers Hall, Campus Box 8108, Raleigh, NC 27695-8108
Phone: 919.515.2483 Fax: 919.515.3886

College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of History