Fernando Vidal

Universitat Rovira i Virgili


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 have long worked on the history of the human sciences and the mind/brain sciences from the Renaissance to the present, and more recently in bioethics and medical anthropology and phenomenology. I have been Guggenheim Fellow, Athena Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome and Harvard University (History of Science), Fellow at the Brocher Foundation, and Visiting Professor in Buenos Aires, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico DF and Kyoto. I was until 2012 a 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 (Paris) and in 2017 Member of the Academia Europaea.

Research interests

How do values and the production and application of scientific knowledge interact in particular contexts to shape views and practices of the human being? This has been the common question of my main research interests, which have long concerned the history of the mind/brain sciences from the early modern “sciences of the soul” to contemporary neurosciences. I keep working in those areas (see Lines of Research), but now also explore that question in the framework of biomedical ethics and medical anthropology and phenomenology. My main current project, which involves a network of researchers, patients and caregivers in Europe, the US and Japan, examines how the individual and collective experience of neurological conditions articulates with conceptions of personhood and forms of subjectivity. It focuses on the locked-in syndrome (known to the public through the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), a condition that leaves the mind intact, but the body almost entirely paralyzed.

Selected publications

– Vidal F 2018, ‘Hacia una fenomenología del síndrome de cautiverio’, Revista de la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría, 38(133), 45-73.

Vidal F 2018, ‘Accuracy, Authenticity, Fidelity: Aesthetic Realism, the “Deficit Model,” and the Public Understanding of Science.’, Science in Context, 31(1), pp 129-153.

Vidal F & Ortega F 2018, ‘On the Neurodisciplines of Culture‘, In M. Meloni et al., éds., The Palgrave Handbook of Biology and Society (New York, Palgrave Macmillan), 371-390.

Vidal F 2018, ‘From “The Popularization of Science through Film” to “The Public Understanding of Science”‘, Science In Context, 31(1), 1-14.

Vidal F 2018, ‘Le “neuro” à toutes les sauces: une cuisine autodestructrice,’ Sensibilités. Histoire, critique & sciences sociales, 5, pp. 59-69.

Selected research activities

In 2018 I was Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin). Among other events and invitations, I organized in Barcelona the public lecture series Frankenstein: 200 Years in the History of Science; gave invited lectures at El Escorial Summer School Fear: Approaches from Medicine, History and Politics, and at the McGill University Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry Culture, Mind and Brain Series; was invited expert in the international “deliberative workshop” Brain-Computer Interfaces and Personhood (Pragmatic Health Ethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal), and speaker at the event Frankenstein and the Anthropocene (CCCB-Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona); and was discussant in the debate organized by the Centre Alexandre Koyré (Paris) on my book Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject, which received the 2018 Outstanding Book Award of International Society for the History of the Neurosciences. I also joined by invitation the Editorial Board of the new Journal for the History of Knowledge.