I am a PhD candidate (ABD) in History of Science at Stanford. I focus on the history and philosophy of biology and the historical sciences, with particular interests in Charles Darwin and in the sciences of complex systems.

Before coming to Stanford, I was a lawyer, serving as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and then representing Silicon Valley technology companies. I left the law for the software business, first as CFO of a publicly-traded software company, next as founding CEO of a software start-up, and finally as Chairman and CEO of a global, publicly-traded internet education company.

I did my undergraduate work at Princeton and got my law degree at Stanford. I also have a Masters of Liberal Arts from Stanford. I am married, have two children and one grandchild and am an avid hiker, skier, and cook.

Honors & Awards

  • Selma V. Forkosch Award for best article published by the Journal of the History of Ideas, Journal of the History of Ideas (2017)
  • Nathan Abbott Scholar for top student in class at graduation, Stanford Law School (1988)
  • Second Year Honor for top student in class after second year, Stanford Law School (1987)
  • First Year Honor for top student in class after first year, Stanford Law School (1986)
  • Myron Herrick Prize for best senior thesis, Princeton University Department of Public and International Affairs (1985)
  • Summa cum laude, Princeton University (1985)

Program Affiliations

  • Program in History & Philosophy of Science

Education & Certifications

  • AB, Princeton Univesity, Public and international affairs (1985)
  • JD, Stanford Law School, Law (1988)
  • MLA, Stanford University, Liberal Arts (2011)

All Publications

  • Tools of Reason: The Practice of Scientific Diagramming from Antiquity to the Present. Endeavour Priest, G., De Toffoli, S., Findlen, P. 2018

    View details for PubMedID 30143241

  • Diagramming Evolution: The Case of Darwin's Trees. Endeavour Priest, G. 2018


    From his earliest student days through the writing of his last book, Charles Darwin drew diagrams. In developing his evolutionary ideas, his preferred form of diagram was the tree. An examination of several of Darwin's trees-from sketches in a private notebook from the late 1830s through the diagram published in the Origin-opens a window onto the role of diagramming in Darwin's scientific practice. In his diagrams, Darwin simultaneously represented both observable patterns in nature and conjectural narratives of evolutionary history. He then brought these natural patterns and narratives into dialogue, allowing him to explore whether the narratives could explain the patterns. But Darwin's diagrams did not reveal their meaning directly to passive readers; they required readers to engage dynamically with them in order to understand the connections they disclosed between patterns and narratives. Moreover, the narratives Darwin depicted in his diagrams did not represent past sequences of events that he claimed had actually occurred; the narratives were conjectural, schematic, and probabilistic. Instead of depicting actual histories in all their particularity, Darwin depicted narratives in his diagrams in order to make general claims about how nature works. The conjunction of these features of Darwin's diagrams is central to how they do their epistemic work.

    View details for PubMedID 30104014

  • Charles Darwin's Theory of Moral Sentiments: What Darwin's Ethics Really Owes to Adam Smith JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS Priest, G. 2017; 78 (4): 571–93


    When we read the Origin, we cannot help but hear echoes of the Wealth of Nations. Darwin's "economy of nature" features a "division of labour" that leads to complexity and productivity. We should not, however, analyze Darwin's ethics through this lens. Darwin did not draw his economic ideas from Smith, nor did he base his ethics on an economic foundation. Darwin's ethics rest on Smith's notion from the Theory of Moral Sentiments of an innate human faculty of sympathy. Darwin gave this faculty an evolutionary interpretation and built on this foundation an ethics far removed from what is commonly supposed.

    View details for DOI 10.1353/jhi.2017.0032

    View details for Web of Science ID 000417650400005

    View details for PubMedID 29104187

  • Framing causal questions about the past: The Cambrian explosion as case study. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences Priest, G. 2017; 63: 55-63


    About 540 million years ago, a rapid radiation of animal phyla radically changed the Earth's biota in a geological eye-blink. What caused this "Cambrian explosion"? Over the years, paleontologists have pointed to a wide array of different physical mechanisms as the causal "trigger" for the explosion. More recently, some paleontologists have proposed complex causal pathways to which multiple physical mechanisms are said to have contributed. Despite their variety, these answers share an assumption that a single explanation can in principle be constructed that identifies some factor or confluence of factors as the cause of the Cambrian explosion. That assumption is unjustifiable. The Cambrian explosion had multiple causes, and different aspects of the event are best explained by different causes. These different causes cannot, even in principle, be integrated into a single causal explanation. We can learn much about the causes of the Cambrian explosion-or for that matter about any historical event-but only by attending more carefully to how we frame our causal questions about the past.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2017.04.003

    View details for PubMedID 28433875

  • Ben Bradley, Darwin's psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. History and philosophy of the life sciences Priest, G. 2023; 45 (3): 28

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s40656-023-00586-3

    View details for PubMedID 37378758

  • Henry Cowles, The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. History and philosophy of the life sciences Priest, G. 2021; 43 (3): 96

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s40656-021-00452-0

    View details for PubMedID 34357484

  • THIERRY HOQUET, Revisiting the Origin of Species: The Other Darwins. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018, xi+240pp., $140($49.55 paperback). History and philosophy of the life sciences Priest, G. 2020; 42 (1): 9

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s40656-020-00304-3

    View details for PubMedID 32067116

  • ALISTAIR SPONSEL, Darwin's Evolving Identity: Adventure, Ambition, and the Sin of Speculation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018, x+358pp., $50.00. History and philosophy of the life sciences Priest, G. 2019; 41 (3): 36

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s40656-019-0279-5

    View details for PubMedID 31506800

  • From Aristotle's Teleology to Darwin's Genealogy: The Stamp of Inutility (Book Review) ISIS Book Review Authored by: Priest, G. 2017; 108 (4): 869–70