Why does an object or phenomenon become the subject of scientific inquiry? Why do some of these objects remain provocative, while others fade from center stage? And why do objects sometimes return as the focus of research long after they were once abandoned?
Addressing such questions, Biographies of Scientific Objects is about how whole domains of phenomena—dreams, atoms, monsters, culture, society, mortality, centers of gravity, value, cytoplasmic particles, the self, tuberculosis—come into being and sometimes pass away as objects of scientific study. With examples drawn from both the natural and social sciences, and ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, this book explores the ways in which scientific objects are both real and historical. Whether discovered or invented, these objects of inquiry broaden and deepen in meaning—growing more "real"—as they become entangled in webs of cultural significance, material practices, and theoretical derivations. Thus their biographies will matter to anyone concerned with the formation of scientific knowledge.
Contributors are Jed Z. Buchwald, Lorraine Daston, Rivka Feldhay, Jan Goldstein, Gerard Jorland, Doris Kauffman, Bruno Latour, Theodore M. Porter, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Marshall Sahlins, and Peter Wagner.
Histories of Scientific Observation
Edited by Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress Q174.8.H57 2011 | Dewey Decimal 507.23
Observation is the most pervasive and fundamental practice of all the modern sciences, both natural and human. Its instruments include not only the naked senses but also tools such as the telescope and microscope, the questionnaire, the photographic plate, the notebook, the glassed-in beehive, and myriad other ingenious inventions designed to make the invisible visible, the evanescent permanent, the abstract concrete. Yet observation has almost never been considered as an object of historical inquiry in itself. This wide-ranging collection offers the first examination of the history of scientific observation in its own right, as both epistemic category and scientific practice.
Histories of Scientific Observation features engaging episodes drawn from across the spectrum of the natural and human sciences, ranging from meteorology, medicine, and natural history to economics, astronomy, and psychology. The contributions spotlight how observers have scrutinized everything—from seaweed to X-ray radiation, household budgets to the emotions—with ingenuity, curiosity, and perseverance verging on obsession. This book makes a compelling case for the significance of the long, surprising, and epistemologically significant history of scientific observation, a history full of innovations that have enlarged the possibilities of perception, judgment, and reason.
In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and economics, among others—and its participants enlisted in an intellectual campaign to figure out what rationality should mean and how it could be deployed.
How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind brings to life the people—Herbert Simon, Oskar Morgenstern, Herman Kahn, Anatol Rapoport, Thomas Schelling, and many others—and places, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Cowles Commission for Research and Economics, and the Council on Foreign Relations, that played a key role in putting forth a “Cold War rationality.” Decision makers harnessed this picture of rationality—optimizing, formal, algorithmic, and mechanical—in their quest to understand phenomena as diverse as economic transactions, biological evolution, political elections, international relations, and military strategy. The authors chronicle and illuminate what it meant to be rational in the age of nuclear brinkmanship.
Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was a watershed event when it was published in 1962, upending the previous understanding of science as a slow, logical accumulation of facts and introducing, with the concept of the “paradigm shift,” social and psychological considerations into the heart of the scientific process. More than fifty years after its publication, Kuhn’s work continues to influence thinkers in a wide range of fields, including scientists, historians, and sociologists. It is clear that The Structure of Scientific Revolutions itself marks no less of a paradigm shift than those it describes.
In Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” at Fifty, leading social scientists and philosophers explore the origins of Kuhn’s masterwork and its legacy fifty years on. These essays exhume important historical context for Kuhn’s work, critically analyzing its foundations in twentieth-century science, politics, and Kuhn’s own intellectual biography: his experiences as a physics graduate student, his close relationship with psychologists before and after the publication of Structure, and the Cold War framework of terms such as “world view” and “paradigm.”
The Moral Authority of Nature
Edited by Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress BD581.M78 2004 | Dewey Decimal 113.09
For thousands of years, people have used nature to justify their political, moral, and social judgments. Such appeals to the moral authority of nature are still very much with us today, as heated debates over genetically modified organisms and human cloning testify.
The Moral Authority of Nature offers a wide-ranging account of how people have used nature to think about what counts as good, beautiful, just, or valuable. The eighteen essays cover a diverse array of topics, including the connection of cosmic and human orders in ancient Greece, medieval notions of sexual disorder, early modern contexts for categorizing individuals and judging acts as "against nature," race and the origin of humans, ecological economics, and radical feminism. The essays also range widely in time and place, from archaic Greece to early twentieth-century China, medieval Europe to contemporary America.
Scholars from a wide variety of fields will welcome The Moral Authority of Nature, which provides the first sustained historical survey of its topic.
Danielle Allen, Joan Cadden, Lorraine Daston, Fa-ti Fan, Eckhardt Fuchs, Valentin Groebner, Abigail J. Lustig, Gregg Mitman, Michelle Murphy, Katharine Park, Matt Price, Robert N. Proctor, Helmut Puff, Robert J. Richards, Londa Schiebinger, Laura Slatkin, Julia Adeney Thomas, Fernando Vidal
Archives bring to mind rooms filled with old papers and dusty artifacts. But for scientists, the detritus of the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research: fossils collected by geologists; data banks assembled by geneticists; weather diaries trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. These are the vital collections, assembled and maintained over decades, centuries, and even millennia, which define the sciences of the archives.
With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more—as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman Antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, this volume reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long-term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science.