Renee C. Fox, Ph.D.

Renee C. Fox, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita, Sociology; Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences

Sept. 23, 2020: We are deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague and friend, Renée Fox. In remembrance.


Ph.D., Sociology, Radcliffe College, Harvard University, 1954
B.A., Smith College, 1949

Research Interests


Renée C. Fox, a summa cum laude graduate of Smith College in 1949, earned her Ph.D. in Sociology in 1954 from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, where she studied in the Department of Social Relations.

Before joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, she was a member of the Columbia University Bureau of Applied Social Research, taught for twelve years at Barnard College, and then spent two years as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard. At the University of Pennsylvania, she was a professor in the Department of Sociology with joint, secondary appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, and in the School of Nursing; and she held an interdisciplinary chair as the Annenberg Professor of the Social Sciences. From 1972-1978 she was the Chair of the Penn Sociology Department. On July 1, 1998, she became the Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences. She is also an Emerita Senior Fellow of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Renée Fox’s major teaching and research interests – sociology of medicine, medical research, medical education, and medical ethics – have involved her in first-hand, participant observation-based studies in Continental Europe (particularly in Belgium), in Central Africa (especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo), and in the People’s Republic of China, as well as in the United States. She has lectured in colleges, universities, and medical schools throughout the United States, and has taught in a number of universities abroad. During the 1996-1997 academic year, she was the George Eastman Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford.

Her books include: Experiment Perilous: Physicians and Patients Facing the Unknown; The Sociology of Medicine: A Participant Observer’s View; Essays in Medical Sociology; In the Belgian Château: The Spirit and Culture of a European Society in an Age of Change; In the Field: A Sociologist’s Journey, and (in co-authorship with Judith P.Swazey), The Courage to Fail: A Social View of Organ Transplants and Dialysis, Spare Parts: Organ Replacement in American Society, and Observing Bioethics.

Fox is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an Honorary Member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. She is the holder of a Radcliffe Graduate School Medal, and of a Centennial Medal from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, and is a recipient of the American Sociological Association’s Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology. She has received several teaching awards: an E. Harris Harbison Gifted Teaching Award of the Danforth Foundation, and a Lindback Foundation Award for Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds eleven honorary degrees, and in 1995, the Belgian Government named her Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II. In October 2007, she was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.