Robert Root-Bernstein

Biologist and Historian of Science Class of June 1981

About Robert's Work

Robert Root-Bernstein is a biologist and a historian of science.

His work concerns applications of the concepts of molecular and philosophical complementarity to theories of evolution, molecular immunology, disease, and neurobiology.  Root-Bernstein has developed a new theory regarding autoimmune diseases and the drugs used for their treatment.  He has also studied the process of scientific discovery and the methodological connections between the sciences and the arts.  He also investigates nonverbal “tools for thinking,” such as pattern forming and recognition, abstracting, analogizing, modeling, and visualizing.


Root-Bernstein has been a professor in the Department of Physiology and in the Lyman Briggs School of Science at Michigan State University since 1987.  He is the author of Discovering (1989), Rethinking AIDS (1993) and co-author (with Michele Root-Bernstein) of Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives’ Tales (1998) and of Sparks of Genius (1999).  He has published numerous articles in such journals as Lancet, Science, Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, and Daedelus.

Root-Bernstein received an A.B. (1975) and a Ph.D. (1980) from Princeton University, and did postdoctoral work with Jonas Salk (1981-83).

Last updated January 1, 2005

Recent News

Bob Root-Bernstein is a professor of physiology at Michigan State University, where he studies the evolution of metabolic control systems, autoimmune diseases, drug development, and the creative process in the sciences and arts. His 1999 book, Sparks of Genius, was “Book of the Year” in Korea in 2007. Root-Bernstein is currently working on books concerning scientists as visual artists; how arts foster scientific innovation; and modern polymaths.

Updated July 2015

Published on June 1, 1981

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