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Ann-Sophie Barwich

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Ann-Sophie Barwich
Other namesSmellosopher
Alma materUniversity of Exeter
Humboldt University of Berlin
Known forThe philosophy of olfaction
Scientific career
Cognitive neuroscience
Philosophy of Science
InstitutionsIndiana University Bloomington
Konrad Lorenz Institute
Columbia University in the City of New York
ThesisMaking Sense of Smell: Classifications and Model Thinking in Olfaction Theory (2013)
Doctoral advisorJohn Dupré
Michael Hauskeller
Other academic advisorsHasok Chang
Sabina Leonelli

Ann-Sophie Barwich is a cognitive scientist, an empirical philosopher, and a historian of science. She is an assistant professor with joint positions in the cognitive science program[1] and the department of history and philosophy of science[2] at Indiana University Bloomington. Barwich is best known for her interdisciplinary[3] work on the history, philosophy, and neuroscience of olfaction. Her book, Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the Mind,[4] highlights the importance of thinking about the sense of smell as a model for neuroscience and the senses.[5][6][7][8][9] She is also noted for her analyses on methodological issues in molecular biology[10] and neuroscience.[11]


Ann-Sophie Barwich, originally from Weimar, East Germany,[12] received her Magister Artium (M.A.) in German Literature Studies and Philosophy in 2009 at the Humboldt University of Berlin with her thesis on causality in Leibniz and its relevance for theories of biological classification.[13] She received her Ph.D. in philosophy in 2013 at the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences at University of Exeter with advisors John Dupré and Michael Hauskeller, taking a philosophy of science approach to olfaction theory in her dissertation.[14] Barwich held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research[15] before receiving the prestigious Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience fellowship at the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University.[16] At the center, she worked in the neuroscience lab of Stuart Firestein on the project “From the Air to the Brain: Laboratory Routines in Olfaction”.


Barwich's research focuses on the chemical senses, with olfaction as the main target of study. Her approach applies philosophical ideas to empirical research to inform theories and methods on how perception and cognition should be modeled in the brain. This combines historical and philosophical analyses with sociological, qualitative methods that include interviews with experts in neuroscience, psychology, chemistry, and the industry of perfumery. A prime example is the research that went into the book Smellosophy,[4] in which she interviewed numerous neuroscientists such as Linda Buck, Stuart Firestein, philosophers including Barry C. Smith, winemaker Allison Tauziet, perfumers Harry Fremont and Christophe Laudamiel, sensory chemists such as Ann C. Noble, Avery Gilbert, as well as zoologists and biophysicists.[17]

Her publications[18] are clustered around two areas: (1) the perceptual and cultural dimensions of smell and its link to cognition, which brings theoretical analyses to the empirical exploration of three aspects of odor: its affective nature, its phenomenological structure, and its cross-modal influences with the other senses, and (2) the role of scientific expertise in laboratory-based neuroscience, focusing on how current advances in olfaction can contribute to the conceptual foundations of neuroscience. By tracking the emergence, success, and decline of standard laboratory routines, her research investigates the cognitive and behavioral patterns that influence scientific decision-making. Barwich is also notable in philosophy of neuroscience[11] and philosophy of molecular biology [10] for her work on the historical and philosophical study of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).[19]


  • Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience fellowship at the Center for Science and Society, Columbia University[16]

Media appearances[edit]

Her work, especially her book,[4] has been covered by Science[6] and national outlets including The New York Times,[20] The Wall Street Journal,[5] Harpers,[7] The Spectator,[9] and The Times Literary Supplement.[8] Smellosophy has also been selected by The Daily Telegraph as one of the "best wine books to buy for Christmas."[21]

The parenting magazine Fatherly covered her work in articles on children's sense of smell,[22] pre-teens' body odor,[23] and debunking the myth that humans have a poor sense of smell.[24] She has been interviewed by the Italian newspaper la Repubblica,[25] Lynne Malcolm's All in the Mind program at ABC Radio National,[26] and the Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan program.[27] Barwich was also invited to appear on the game show Tell Me Something I Don't Know on Freakonomics Radio.[28]


Public writings[edit]

Barwich is currently a writer for the column Molecules to Mind: The sense of smell as a window into mind and brain in Psychology Today.[35] She has also written on smell training[36] and wine tasting[37] for the NEO.LIFE magazine, on the philosophy and science of olfaction for Aeon[38] and Nautilus Quarterly,[39][40] and the importance of olfaction for philosophy in The Philosophers' Magazine.[41] During the COVID-19 pandemic, she wrote about COVID-19-related loss of smell and what it means for our understanding of the mind for StatNews.[42] De Standaard[43] picked up Barwich's work to address one of the core symptoms of COVID-19: the loss of smell and taste. Focusing on the case of Mary Hesse, she has also written for Aeon on the erasure of women philosophers from collective memory.[44]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2020). Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the Mind. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674983694.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2020). "What makes a discovery successful? The story of Linda Buck and the olfactory receptors" (PDF). Cell. 181 (4): 749–753. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.040. PMID 32413294. S2CID 218627484.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2019). "The value of failure in science: The story of grandmother cells in neuroscience". Frontiers in Neuroscience. 13 (1121): 1121. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.01121. PMC 6822296. PMID 31708726.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2018). "Measuring the World: Olfaction as a Process Model of Perception". Everything flows: Towards a processual philosophy of biology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198779636.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie; Karim, Baschir (2017). "The Manipulability of What? The History of G–Protein Coupled Receptors". Biology and Philosophy. 32 (6): 1317–1339. doi:10.1007/s10539-017-9608-9. hdl:2022/26207. S2CID 148645746.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2016). "What is so special about smell? Olfaction as a model system in neurobiology". Postgraduate Medical Journal. 92 (1083): 27–33. doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2015-133249. PMID 26534994. S2CID 31525667.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie; Chang, Hasok (2015). "Sensory measurements: coordination and standardization". Biological Theory. 10 (3): 200–211. doi:10.1007/s13752-015-0222-2. S2CID 82111463.
  • Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2014). "A sense so rare: Measuring olfactory experiences and making a case for a process perspective on sensory perception". Biological Theory. 9 (3): 258–268. doi:10.1007/s13752-014-0165-z. S2CID 84039814.


  1. ^ "Ann-Sophie Barwich". Indiana University. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  2. ^ "Ann-Sophie Barwich". Indiana University. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  3. ^ "There is no philosophical essence". Daily Nous. 10 April 2020. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c AS Barwich (2020). Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the Mind. Harvard University Press. p. 384. ISBN 9780674983694.
  5. ^ a b Jay, Mike (July 10, 2020). "'Smells' and 'Smellosophy' Review: What the Nose Knows". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b McGann, JP (July 28, 2020). "How we experience smell has more to do with us than with the odor itself". Science Magazine. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Haas, Lidija (2020). "New Books". Harper's. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Fraser, Rachel (May 15, 2020). "Scents and sensibility". The TLS. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Bywater, Michael (July 18, 2020). "Where are the scents of yesterday? Entire countries have lost their distinctive smell". Spectator. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Molecular Biology". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition). 2019. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  11. ^ a b "The Philosophy of Neuroscience". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition). 2019. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  12. ^ Barwich, AS (Mar 27, 2020). "What is it like to be a philosopher? Ann-Sophie Barwich" (Interview). Interviewed by Cliff Sosis. What is it like to be a philosopher?. Retrieved Nov 29, 2020.
  13. ^ Compossibilis. Leibniz’ Kausalitätskonzept als heuristische Quelle für Entwicklungsfragen in der modernen Biologie
  14. ^ Making Sense of Smell: Classifications and Model Thinking in Olfaction Theory
  15. ^ "Ann-Sophie Barwich". Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Ann-Sophie Barwich". Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  17. ^ pps.315-317
  18. ^ "Google scholar page". Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Barwich, Ann-Sophie; Karim, Baschir (2017). "The Manipulability of What? The History of G–Protein Coupled Receptors". Biology and Philosophy. 32 (6): 1317–1339. doi:10.1007/s10539-017-9608-9. hdl:2022/26207. S2CID 148645746.
  20. ^ Gonot, Stephanie (28 January 2021). "What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell?". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  21. ^ Moore, Victoria (2020-11-12). "The best wine books to buy for Christmas". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-07.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  22. ^ Coleman, PA (Sep 22, 2020). "The Importance of Playing with A Child's Sense of Smell". Fatherly. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Krisch, JA (Jun 8, 2018). "Why Preteens Smell Bad as Puberty Gets Started". Fatherly. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  24. ^ Coleman, PA (May 11, 2017). "The Myth That Humans Have a Poor Sense of Smell, Debunked". Fatherly. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  25. ^ "Perché un profumo può farci emozionare". la Repubblica (in Italian). Sep 1, 2020. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  26. ^ "A love letter to smell". All in the Mind. ABC Radio National. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  27. ^ "What the nose tells the mind". RNZ. 2020-12-02. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  28. ^ "Jon Batiste, Gail Simmons, and Strange Smells". Tell Me Something I Don't Know. Series 33. Freakonomics Radio. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  29. ^ Joseph Fridman (Sep 3, 2020). "Ann-Sophie Barwich" (Podcast). New Books Network. Retrieved Nov 24, 2020.
  30. ^ Jason Tetro (Dec 17, 2018). "The Smells of the Season" (Podcast). Super Awesome Science Show. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  31. ^ Nick Zautra (Oct 18, 2018). "Episode 48 - Ann-Sophie Barwich" (Podcast). SciPhi Podcast. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  32. ^ Sean Carroll (July 13, 2020). "Ann-Sophie Barwich on the Science and Philosophy of Smell" (Podcast). Mindscape. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  33. ^ Ricardo Lopes (May 22, 2020). "Ann-Sophie Barwich: Philosophy of Science, Neuroscience, And Olfaction" (Podcast). The Dissenter. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  34. ^ Ilan Goodman (Dec 20, 2020). "AS Barwich on the Neurophilosophy of Smell" (Podcast). NOUS. Retrieved Dec 20, 2020.
  35. ^ Barwich, AS. "Molecules to Mind: The sense of smell as a window into mind and brain". Psychology Today. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  36. ^ Barwich, AS (Aug 26, 2020). "How smell training can change your brain in six weeks—and why it matters". NEO.LIFE. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  37. ^ Barwich, AS (Sep 10, 2020). "How to change your mind over a glass of wine". NEO.LIFE. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  38. ^ Barwich, AS (Mar 30, 2020). "It's hard to fool a nose". Aeon. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  39. ^ Barwich, AS (Oct 14, 2020). "Our Mind-Boggling Sense of Smell". NAUTILUS. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  40. ^ Barwich, AS (2020-12-12). "What Did the Past Smell Like?". Nautilus. Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  41. ^ Barwich, AS (2016). "Making Sense of Smell". The Philosophers' Magazine. 2nd Quarter 2016 (73): 41–47. doi:10.5840/tpm20167370. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  42. ^ Barwich, AS (Aug 14, 2020). "Going viral: What Covid-19-related loss of smell reveals about how the mind works". STAT. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  43. ^ Ouariachi, Jamal (Sep 5, 2020). "Hebben we de neus te lang verwaarloosd?". De Standaard. Retrieved Nov 23, 2020.
  44. ^ Barwich, Ann-Sophie. "Why are women philosophers often erased from collective memory? | Aeon Essays". Aeon. Nigel Warburton (ed.). Retrieved 2022-04-26.

External links[edit]