Doctoral Candidate

Entered 2019


B.A. George Washington University

Brigid's research focuses on the intersection of the history of science and environmental history.

Her dissertation examines the history of laboratory chimpanzees in the 20th century United States, considering how parts of the natural world become constructed as scientific resources. Her research explores how laboratory science in the U.S. was shaped not only by chimpanzees themselves but by the conditions of access to chimps: transnational trade, political change in West and Central Africa, international conservation, and this rise of animal rights activism. Brigid traces U.S. lab scientists' utilization of an indigenous African animal from the first U.S. chimp laboratoy in 1929 to plans to retire federal research chimpanzees in the late 1990s. Focusing on a single species, the dissertation examines the racialized politics of natural resource management through commodification of the chimpanzee.

Chimpanzees held scientific promise for researchers in many disciplines throughout the 20th century. Early 20th century psychologists, Air Force space biologists in the 1960s, and immunologists studying cures for blood-borne disease in the 1970s and 80s all utilized chimpanzees as a preferred lab animal. However, keeping chimpanzees alive in captivity and encouraging their reprodution were challenges that often interrupted the animals' experimental usefulness. As international conservation brought scrutiny to the demands that lab research placed on wild chimp populations, laboratory researchers made claims that chimpanzees were better utilized in U.S. labs than in their African habitats. As a whole, this dissertation examines how 20th century American scientists, animal rights activists, and conservationists constructed and contested chimpanzees' status as scientific resources. This research has been supported by grants from the University of Pennsylvania and fellowships from the Linda Hall Library, the Beinecke Library Research Fellowship, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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