Georgina Montgomery

Georgina MontgomeryWritten by Andy McGlashen, Environmental Science and Policy Program

When she was in high school, Georgina Montgomery wanted to study biology, history and geography, but a teacher told her she had to choose either science or the humanities.

"And I refused to do that," she said. "Looking back, I think it shows from a very early age I was interested in both."

Montgomery, an assistant professor jointly appointed by Lyman Briggs College and the Department of History, combines those interests as a historian of science. She focuses on the history of field science, especially studies of primates and animal behavior.

Armed with a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Lancaster in her native England, Montgomery crossed the pond to earn her Ph.D. in the history of science and technology from the University of Minnesota. She then spent two years at Montana State University, where she conducted post-doctoral research on primate field projects directed by American scientists and operated in East Africa.

While in Montana, Montgomery also taught a course in animal histories, which highlighted the role of animals in human history through attention to, among other subjects, agriculture, animal experimentation and zoos. She won a teaching award from the Humane Society of the United States for the class, and will teach a similar course - History 110 - here in the spring. With its farms, veterinary clinics and a nearby zoo, she said, MSU offers an ideal context for studying animal histories.

"You have so many wonderful animal places here on campus that it's a really experiential learning opportunity," she said.

Montgomery is at work on a book manuscript, tentatively titled "Seeing Primates Scientifically," and is co-authoring a book chapter on teaching animal histories with Linda Kalof, who heads MSU's new specialization in animal studies.

She said the new specialization is exciting for someone with her research interests and that, with training that ranges from biology to philosophy and history, the animal studies faculty work very well together.

"You don't always get a sense of community, but we have that here at MSU," she said.

Montgomery was raised in Barton-under-Needwood, a village in the English Midlands that she described as "one of those English towns with two shops and six pubs," close enough to the Bass brewery that the air smells of ale.

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