Michael Bess

Michael Bess is Chancellor’s Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is a specialist in 20th- and 21st-century Europe, with a particular interest in the interactions between social and cultural processes and technological change. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989. His book, The Light-Green Society, won the George Perkins Marsh prize of the American Society for Environmental History. He has received major fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Fulbright program. At Vanderbilt, Bess teaches undergraduate courses on the social and moral implications of human bioenhancement, World War II, 20th-century Europe, and Western Civilization, as well as specialized seminars on environmentalism, the boundaries of the human, or utopian thought. His graduate courses include a survey of the historiography on 20th-century Europe, and a semester-long workshop to train graduate students for teaching history at the college level. He is currently working on a book project entitled “What makes us human? From neurons to the Sistine Chapel.”


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