Maureen O’Malley

About me

[Picture of me escaping into a forest] I’m based in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney..

My previous positions were also at the University of Sydney, where I carried out a five-year research project in the Department of Philosophy. Before coming to Sydney, I was a senior research fellow at Egenis, the University of Exeter. Prior to that, I spent a few years in Ford Doolittle’s evolutionary microbiology lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I did my PhD on evolutionary explanations in the social sciences and humanities at the Universities of Edinburgh and Sussex.

Key research areas

[Me on a mountain ridge, by David Braddon-Mitchell] Photo courtesy of David Braddon-Mitchell

Philosophy of microbiology

Main focus: I’m working on a book on philosophical issues in microbiome research. It’s still in progress and should be out in 2024–2025 with Harvard University Press. Topics include: host-microbiome individuality, phylosymbiosis and other evolutionary patterns, the nature of microbiomes, microbiome causality in hosts, microbiomes and health, microbiome research and traditional microbiology, and some general thoughts on philosophy of microbiome research.

A side project: With Daniela Helbig (also here in HPS Sydney), I’ve been investigating the life of Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider. She was a student of Einstein, and a neo-Kantian philosopher of science who came to Sydney as a refugee when WW2 broke out. As well as getting the history and philosophy of science started in Sydney, she was a major player in an outreach programme to regional towns focused on new scientific developments and philosophy of science. But most generally, she represents an era in which major shifts in philosophy of science were occurring — changes that helped make her views and even life story disappear. We’ve got a basic overview of her life in Historical Records of Australian Science (2022), and have future plans for further investigations of her work and how it fits the intellectual landscape of the time.

Contact details

[Me coming down a snow-covered mountain, © Matthew Slater] Image © Matthew Slater
Mailing address:
c/o HPS
Carslaw Building (F07)
University of Sydney
NSW 2006