John Durant received his BA in Natural Sciences from Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1972 and went on to take a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science, also at Cambridge, in 1977. After more than a decade in University Continuing Education (first, at the University of Swansea in Wales, and then at the University of Oxford), in 1989 he was appointed Assistant Director and Head of Science Communication at the Science Museum, London and Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College, London. In 2000, he was appointed Chief Executive of At-Bristol, a new independent science centre in the West of England. He came to MIT in July 2005, to take up a joint appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the STS Program and Director of the MIT Museum.
His earlier research was in the history of evolutionary and behavioral biology, with special reference to debates about animal nature and human nature in the late-19th and 20th centuries. More recently, however, he has undertaken sociological research on the public dimensions of science and technology. He is especially interested in public perceptions of the life sciences and biotechnology, in the role of public consultation in science and technology policy-making, and in the role of informal media (especially museums) in facilitating public engagement with science and technology. He is the founder editor of the quarterly peer review journal, Public Understanding of Science, and the author and editor of numerous books, essay collections and scholarly articles in the history and the public understanding of science.