Joseph L. Graves

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Joseph L. Graves

Born1955 (age 64–65)
Other namesJoseph L. Graves, Jr.
Alma materOberlin College (B.A.)
Wayne State University (PhD)

Joseph L. Graves (born 1955) is an American scientist and the associate dean for research and professor of biological studies at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering which is jointly administered by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and UNC Greensboro.[1] His past research has included an examination of the evolution of life history and physiological performance in Drosophila, a genus of small flies often called fruit flies. His current work includes the genomics of adaptation, as well as the response of bacteria to metallic/metallic oxide nanoparticles. A particular application of this research has been to the evolutionary theory of aging.[2] Using his background in evolutionary biology, he has also written two books that address myths and theories of race in American society. Graves has made appearances in six documentary films on these general topics. He has been a principal investigator on grants from the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation and the Arizona Disease Research Commission.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Graves was born in 1955 and received his B.A. in biology from Oberlin College in 1977 and his PhD from Wayne State University in 1988. Before his appointment to North Carolina A & T State University, he held positions at the University of California, Irvine; at the West campus of Arizona State University, with a joint appointment in African American Studies at the main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe; and as University Core Director at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Childhood experiences shaped Graves' interest in race and racism: "My parents were poor. They didn’t know how to read. I had to teach myself how to read," he says. "The school system of my home was racially biased. When I was in kindergarten teachers wanted to declare me mentally retarded so that I could be placed in a special education curriculum. The regular curriculum had a tracking system," Graves continues. "For no apparent reason, all the black kids ended up in the lower track." But, by graduation day, years later, Graves had risen to be among the highest ranked students at his high school. He accepted an academic scholarship to attend Oberlin College and graduated from there with an A.B. in Biology in 1977. His next two years were spent at the Institute for Tropical Disease at the University of Lowell (today called U. Mass. Lowell.) And thus, this allowed him to earn a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to begin his PhD work at the University of Michigan in 1979. He completed his PhD in Evolutionary, Environmental, and Systematic Biology at Wayne State University in 1988. This work afforded him the prestigious President's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Irvine from 1988 to 1990. He joined the faculty at the University of California, Irvine in 1990.



Working with Laurence D. Mueller, Graves found that population density is an important factor in determining both the immediate chances of survival and the course of natural selection for small organisms such as fruit flies.[5] In "Chance, Development, and Aging", Human Biology December 2001, Graves wrote that the explanation of individual patterns of aging must take into account subtle mechanisms such as extensive chance variations in cell number and connections, in cell fates during differentiation, and in physiological patterns that arise during development. Graves has studied the tiny insects for more than a decade in pursuit of greater understanding of senescence, the process of aging.

In addition to the study of aging, Graves is interested in the history and philosophy of science as it relates to the biology of race and racism in western society. He has received a fair amount of attention from the press for his writings on this topic, especially his strong statements about the socially constructed nature of race. According to his profile on the University of North Carolina Minority Health Project website, he believes:

there are still significant academic and popular views of race that are mired in the biological determinism of the 19th century and the application of proper scientific method and philosophy, along with quantitative genetics reveals the underlying racist ideology of these programs.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In addition to his research interests, Graves has also been an active participant in the struggle to protect and improve the teaching of science in the public schools.[6] He advocates discussing human biological variation and race in high school and college science curricula.[7]


  • Graves, Joseph L. (2003). The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2847-X. (February 2001)
  • Graves, Joseph L. (2004). The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America (Re-print ed.). Plume. ISBN 0-452-28658-1. (June 28, 2005)


Selected Papers from 1988–2014[edit]

  • Graves J.L., Luckinbill, L.S. and A. Nichols. (1988) Flight duration and wing beat frequency in long- and short-lived Drosophila melanogaster, J. Insect Physiol. 34:1021-1026.
  • Graves, J.L. and M.R. Rose. (1990) Flight duration in Drosophila melanogaster selected for postponed senescence. In Genetic Effects on Aging II., Telford Press, Caldwell, N.J.
  • Graves, J.L., E. Toolson, C.M. Jeong, L.N. Vu, and M.R. Rose. (1992) Desiccation resistance, flight duration, glycogen and postponed senescence in Drosophila melanogaster. Physiological Zoology 65(2):268-286.
  • Graves, J.L. and L.D. Mueller. Population density effects on longevity. Genetica vol. 91 pp. 99–109.
  • Graves, J.L. (1993) The costs of reproduction and dietary restriction in mammals. Growth, Development, and Aging 57(4):233-249.
  • Graves, J.L. (1997) Chapter 4. General Theories of Aging: Unification and Synthesis, in Principles of Neural Aging. pp. 35–55. Eds. Sergio F. Dani, MD., Akira Hori, MD., and Gerhard F. Walter, MD, Ph.D. Elsevier Press.
  • Graves, J.L. (2002) What a tangled web he weaves: Race, reproductive strategies, and Rushton's life history theory. Anthropological Theory, Sage Publishers, vol. 2(2): 131-154.
  • Graves, J.L. (2002) Scylla and Charybdis: Adaptationism, reductionism, and the fallacy of associating race with disease, in Rachel Ankeny and Lisa Parker eds. Medical Genetics: Mutating Concepts and Evolving Disciplines, Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Graves, J.L. (2002) Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Teaching the Biological and Social Construction of Race, in Bonnie Tu-Smith ed., Race in the Class Room: Politics and Pedagogy, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, pp. 299–31.
  • Graves, J.L., What we know and what we don't know: Human Genetic Variation and the social construction of race, for Is Race Real?, a collection of essays solicited by The Social Science Research Council, edited by Craig Calhoun, President Social Science Research Council, April 6, 2005.
  • Graves, J.L. and Rose, M.R. (2006) Against Racial Medicine, Patterns of Prejudice vol. 40 (4–5): 481-493, Sander Gilman editor.
  • Graves, J.L., Biological V. Social Definitions of Race: Implications for Modern Biomedical Research, Review of Black Political Economy, DOI: 10.1007/s12114-009-9053-3, 2009.
  • Graves, J.L., Evolutionary versus Racial Medicine: Why it Matters? In Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan, Columbia University Press, 2011.
  • Graves, J.L, Looking at the World through ‘Race’ Colored Glasses: The Influence of Ascertainment Bias on Biomedical Research and Practice, in Laura Gomez and Nancy Lopez, eds. Mapping "Race": A Critical Reader on Health Disparities Research, Rutgers University Press, 2013.
  • Rose, M.R, Flatt, T, Graves, J.L. et al., A new evolutionary genetics of aging I. What is aging? Frontiers in Genetics, July 20, 2012, doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00134.
  • Graves, J.L, Gene expression in late-life, Frontiers in Genetics, August 28, 2012, doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00156.
  • Graves, J.L., Naturalizing Supernatural, for Supernatural and Philosophy: Metaphysics and Morals for Idjits, Ed. Galen Foresman, Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, 2013.
  • Graves, J.L, Race, Genomics, and IQ: Slight Return for Intelligence Quotient: Testing, Role of Genetics and the Environment and Social Outcomes, Ed. Joseph Kush, Nova Scientific Publishers, pp. 69 –86, 2013.
  • Graves, J.L., The Safety of Nanomaterials: What We Know and What We Need to Know, in Advances in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, (Eds. Kelkar, A.D., Herr, D., and Ryan, J.G.), CRC Press (2014.)
  • "The effect of superoxide dismutase alleles on aging in Drosophila", Genetica Volume 91, Numbers 1-3 / February 1993
  • "Chance, Development, and Aging (review)", Human Biology 73:6, December 2001, pp. 901–902.


  1. ^ University Studies Faculty, North Carolina A & T State University Archived 2007-11-16 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Graves profile at the University of North Carolina's Minority Health Project
  3. ^ Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. Archived 2012-02-06 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Graves, Joseph L (January 1, 2002). "The Biological Case Against Race" (PDF). American Outlook. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 15, 2006. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  5. ^ "Population density effects on longevity" Genetica Volume 91, Numbers 1-3 / February 1993
  6. ^ Joseph L. Graves, Jr., Ph.D. Archived 2007-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Why We Should Teach Our Students about Race." Reports of the National Center for Science Education, v22 n3 p23-26 May–June 2002

In January, 2007, Joseph L. Graves, Jr. answered visitors questions about evolutionary biology[dead link]