Professor Joe Cain is UCL Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

Research interests

Professor Joe Cain’s research interests include the history of evolutionary studies (especially the synthesis period in evolutionary studies), Darwin and Darwinism, history of eugenics, science in London, and history of natural history. Joe is director of the Legacies of Eugenics project.


Joe’s an expert in the history of evolutionary biology, especially Darwin and Darwinism, and his research interests range from history of eugenics at UCL to romantic collaborations in modern science to the famous dinosaur statues in London’s Crystal Palace.

Joe oversaw republication of Lyndsay Farrall’s classic work, The Origins and Growth of the English Eugenics Movement, 1865-1925, as STS Occasional Papers number 9 (ISBN 978-1-78751-001-2, free open access).

In 2018, Joe published Night Thoughts: George Gaylord Simpson’s Reflections on Leaving the American Museum of Natural History as STS Occasional Papers number 7 (ISBN 978-1-78751-000-5, free open access). This is a close study a journal entry written by this famous palaeontologist on his last evening employed by the American Museum of Natural History in a job that was the post of a lifetime.

In 2016, Joe ended his “Film Nights” series, a 10+ year collaboration with UCL Grant Museum of Zoology that showed, for free, classic and obscure films related to the history of natural history. Films included “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “The Blob,” “The Lost World,” “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” and the shamefully popular “Attack of the Killer Shrews”. This series served as a setting to develop a new model for public engagement in the cinema.

In 2009 he published a new edition of Darwin’s Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Penguin) and a collection of essays on new trends in the history of Darwinism, Descended from Darwin (American Philosophical Society).

Joe has won one international and two UCL teaching awards. He has received one academic award for photography. In 2012, Joe also was awarded UCL’s Public Engagement Unit’s award for the head of department who has shown the strongest commitment to culture change in their area of responsibility with respect to public engagement. He also has received special commendations from UCL’s Provost for his extensive public engagement activity.

Professor Joe Cain tweets as @profjoecain