Fernando Vidal

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


Born in Buenos Aires, I received a BA from Harvard University, graduate degrees in psychology and the history and philosophy of science from the Universities of Geneva and Paris, and a Habilitation from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. I work on the history of the human sciences and the mind/brain sciences from the early modern period to the present. I have been a Guggenheim Fellow, Athena Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome and Harvard University's Department of the History of Science, Fellow at the Brocher Foundation, and Visiting Professor in Buenos Aires, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and Japan. Before ICREA I was permanent Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. In 2016 I was elected Associate Member of the Centre Alexandre Koyré-Histoire des sciences et des techniques (Paris) and in 2017 Member of the Academia Europaea.

Research interests

My research concerns the history and historiography of the human sciences and the mind/brain sciences, focusing on the relationships between knowledge and values as they shape views about the human being. Major topics have been the early modern “sciences of the soul” and the contemporary “neurocultures” that privilege neuroscientific interpretations of the human; others have included miracles and science, the body and sexuality in the Enlightenment, the history of education in the inter war years, and the emergence of the notion of biocultural diversity. My most recent book is Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (2017). Work in progress includes a book on “performing” brains in film, and a project (close to biomedical ethics and medical anthropology) on how neurological conditions, in particular the disorders of consciousness and the locked-in syndrome, articulate with conceptions of personhood and subjectivities in historical and transcultural perspectives.

Selected publications

Vidal F & Ortega F 2017, Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject, Fordham University Press, NY (USA). 

Vidal F & Piperberg M 2017, ‘Born Free: The Theory and Practice of Neuroethical Exceptionalism‘, in Racine E & Aspler J (eds), Debates About Neuroethics: Perspectives on Its Development, Focus, and Future (New York, Springer), 67-81.

Selected research activities

In 2017 I was Fellow at the Fondation Brocher (Geneva) and Invited Professor at Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto). Among other events and invitations, I co-organized the symposium Knowledge Translation in Mental Health: History and Forms of a Global Imperative at the 25th International Congress of the History of Science and Technology (Rio de Janeiro), and was keynote speaker at the International Workshop Challenges of Illness Narratives (Kyoto) and at the annual meeting of the Spanish Neuropsychiatry Association (Madrid), as well as lecturer in the Bar-Hillel Colloquium for the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science (Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Science, Tel Aviv University). I was elected Member of the Academia Europaea.