Nathaniel C. Comfort

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Nathaniel Charles Comfort
Known forHistory of biology

Nathaniel Charles Comfort is an American historian specializing in the history of biology. He is an Associate Professor in the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.[1] In 2015, he was appointed the third Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress John W. Kluge Center.[2] He also serves on the Advisory Council of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Comfort is best known for his 2001 biography of Barbara McClintock, The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock's Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control, he has been praised for his reinterpretation of the response to McClintock's work on controlling elements.[3] His 2012 book The Science of Human Perfection examines the history of human and medical genetics in America, he has written about the development of gene editing and its relationship to the United States’ eugenics movement.[4][5][6] He is working on a history of the genomic revolution in origin-of-life research.[2]


Comfort received a B.A. in marine biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. He received an M.S. in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University in 1990. After working as a science writer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,[7] he completed his Ph.D. in history at SUNY Stony Brook in 1997.[8]


Comfort was an associate professor of history and the deputy director at the Center for History of Recent Science at George Washington University from 1997-2003,[8] he joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins faculty in 2003.[9]

He is a member of the History of Science Society and the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, he is on the editorial board of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences.[9]


Comfort married molecular biologist Carol W. Greider in 1993. They have two children,[10] they divorced in 2011.[11]


  • Comfort, Nathaniel C. (2001). The tangled field : Barbara McClintock's search for the patterns of genetic control. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674004566.
  • Comfort, Nathaniel, ed. (2007). Opening up the intelligent design controversy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801885990.
  • Comfort, Nathaniel (2012). The science of human perfection : how genes became the heart of American medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300169911.


  1. ^ "Nathaniel Comfort, PhD". Department of the History of Medicine. Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Nathaniel Comfort Named to Chair in Astrobiology at John W. Kluge Center". Library of Congress. 7 April 2015.
  3. ^ Keirns, Carla (2002). "Demythologizing McClintock". American Scientist. January-February. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  4. ^ Pemberton, Stephen (September 2013). "Nathaniel Comfort. The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine". Isis. 104 (3): 644–645. doi:10.1086/674508.
  5. ^ Hosman, Elliot (July 23, 2015). "Slipping Into Eugenics? Nathaniel Comfort on the History Behind CRISPR". Biopolitical Times.
  6. ^ Comfort, Nathaniel (July 16, 2015). "Can We Cure Genetic Diseases Without Slipping Into Eugenics?". The Nation. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Nominees for ISHPSSB Council". International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology Newsletter. 13 (23). Spring 2001. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Nathaniel Charles Comfort". Department of the History of Medicine. Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Nathaniel Charles Comfort, M.S., Ph.D." Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Carol Widney Greider (1961-)". The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  11. ^ Talbott, Clint (March 2010). "'Having it all' plus 'doing it all'". Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.