2013 Prize Winners

 

Robert Richards and Paul FarberSarton Medal: Simon Schaffer

The Sarton Medal is the most prestigious award given by the History of Science Society. Presented annually to a scholar of outstanding merit and reputation, it was tailor made for Simon Schaffer. In addition to over thirty years worth of innovative publications, his teaching, collaborative support of countless colleagues and students, and decades of service as journal editor, committee member, society officer and BBC television presenter, have had a hugely positive impact, both within our field and on public understanding, of thehistory of science.

Professor Schaffer is probably best known for his co-authorship with Steven
Shapin of Leviathan and the Air-Pump, the themes of which have been central to
many of our field's key debates and transitions since the 1980s.1 Rather than
rely on experiments, instruments and published reports as straightforward
sources of scientific explanation and progress, Schaffer and Shapin argued that the negotiated meaning, articulation and success or failure of these phenomena (cast as material, social and literary technologies) are what need to be examined and
explained. Most fundamentall, instead of accepting scientific knowledge as embodying a view from nowhere, they insisted that making knowledge is always also about making assent and managing dissent; that is, questions of scientific and social order need to be investigated and understood in tandem. While tracing the processes whereby the now familiar 'experimental way of life' was constituted and
defended, Leviathan and the Air-Pump has taught us to recognize science's relatedness with all those areas of social endeavor to which it appeared not to
relate in the literature that preceded it.

To focus exclusively on Leviathan and the Air-Pump, however, would be to
miss the influence of a dizzyingly broad range of work that has emanated from Schaffer's insatiable exploration of the history of science as an integrated element of the larger drama of human history. He has published on science from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. By following the inventively
revealing questions he poses, we have repeatedly learned to look at the seemingly familiar with new eyes. Schaffer has offered numerous new insights into the world of Enlightenment science while working to encourage, coordinate and strengthen the views of others, not least in the seminal volume he co-edited with Bill Clark and Jan Golinski, The Sciences in Enlightened Europe. Schaffer's contribution to our understanding of the history of science during the long nineteenth century is just as profound and wide-ranging. In a series of highly influential papers commencing with "Astronomers mark time: discipline and the personal equation," Schaffer highlighted the way in which different accounts of the identity and social place of scientific practitioners during the century intersected with important political debates, linking debates about scientific authority to concerns with the nature of authority more generally.

In short, Simon Schaffer is an untiringly active and engaged member of
our community who has dedicated his career to advancing the history of science,
not only as an academic discipline, but also as a source of broader intellectual
inspiration and understanding, and as a vehicle for increasing public
appreciation for and involvement in the drama, promises and challenges of
science. No wonder so many people volunteered to co-nominate him for the
Sarton Medal.

Some of his major books include, Leviathan and the Air Pump with Steven Shapin (1985), The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences with David Gooding and Trevor Pinch (1989), The Sciences in Enlightend Europe with William Clark and Jan Golinski (1999), The Information Order of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (2008), The Brokered World: Go-betweens and global intelligence, 1770-1820 with Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj, and James Delbourgo (2009)


Eleanor RobsonPfizer Prize: John Tresch

The Pfizer Award Committee is delighted to announce that the 2012 award for an outstanding book in the history of science goes to John Tresch for his book Romantic Machines: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012.

John Tresch describes devices new to this period as "romantic machines," including the pianotype, the compound steam engine, the current balance, and the diorama. It is hard to imagine twenty-first century culture without some (the saxophone, or remote descendants of the daguerreotype), while others have disappeared or were never realized in material form. Tresch contrasts machines of this sort with "classical machines" such as mechanical clocks, balances, and levers. Rather than assemblages of brass and iron, romantic machines exploited the powers of subtle fluids: electricity and magnetism, as well as heat, light, and sound. Unlike classical machines, they reflected an organicist way of thinking about nature that emphasized its unity, its dynamism,
and the joining of matter and spirit.

By the end of the book, Tresch has driven another stake through the heart of
an older view of the Romantic movement as corrupted by antiscientific impulses
of subjectivity, sentimentality, and holistic mysticism. In its place, he describes
a "mechanical romanticism," which embraced these impulses within a rich and
rigorous practice of science and engineering. In the hands of its practitioners,
machines became extensions of human sensibility as well as reason; expressive
and affect-laden, they were embedded in the esthetic, spiritual, and political
values of early nineteenth-century Paris. Mobilized in projects of social and political reform, of a utopian and/or socialist bent, Tresch argues, they were
ultimately part of the ferment that culminated in the Revolution of 1848. While
machines reinforced the inequities of the new industrial order, they also
represented a promise of liberation from labor and want.

Romantic Machines is as imaginative and provocative as the works of the
scientists and philosophers that make up its raw materials. It is also a model of
historical writing: clearly structured, clearly written, and synthetic, it enfolds
texts, images, and contexts with masterful ease. It is a pleasure to read a book
that is not only transformative, but inspirational.


- Katharine Park (chair)
- Norton Wise
- Adrian Johns

Eric Conway and Naomi OreskesWatson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize: David Kaiser

The Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize is awarded each year to a book that appeals to general readers. This year's prize winner is David Kaiser's How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival. Kaiser examines the history of quantum mechanics after World War II, focusing on a group of physicists, the "Fundamental Fysiks Group," who in the 1970s set out to explore possible links between quantum mechanics, Eastern religion, the hallucinogen LSD, and assorted paranormal phenomena such as telepathy and psychokinesis. This was a long way indeed from mainstream physics. The Second World War and its aftermath, Kaiser explains, took physics away from the sorts of philosophical inquiry or openended speculation that had attracted Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger. For Kaiser, the efforts of the "hippie physicists" played a key part in bringing back the "big-picture search for meaning" as well as helping to link apparently bizarre ideas about quantum mechanics and consciousness with the world of defense, banking and quantum cryptography.

Kaiser's book is distinguished by prodigious research. The author also
displays a knack for providing lucid explanations of challenging technical issues
as well as a gift for crafting a story that keeps the reader eagerly turning the
pages. How the Hippies Saved Physics is an accessible and highly engaging
book that deftly paints a convincing picture of how the main characters were
embedded in the broader culture. It is at the same time a deeply serious, thought
provoking and original work with very important things to say about the history
of quantum mechanics, the links between the counterculture and science and
technology, and the complex relationship between physics broadly conceived
and the Cold War in the United States.


- Robert Smith, Chair
- Brian Ogilvie
- Lissa Roberts

Nuria ValverdeDerek Price/Rod Webster Prize: Richard Bellon

Bellon's paper, "Inspiration in the Harness of Daily Labor: Darwin, Botany, and the Triumph of Evolution, 1859-1868," is noteworthy for its surprising but convincing revisionism on the role of Darwin's book on orchids in changing the tide of the acceptance of his Origin of Species of 1859. Darwin's book on the fertilization of orchids, published three years later in 1862, brilliantly drew attention, on a detailed species-specific level, to advantages of the theory of natural selection over the principal alternative, namely a natural-theological approach, and thus almost immediately transformed the reception of the theory among professional biologists from highly skeptical to mostly accepting. That the scenario Bellon presents to us seems so obvious in retrospect is only a measure of his achievement. Equally inspiring, he has presented an entirely thoughtprovoking argument on a subject as carefully studied as the reception of Darwin's evolutionary theory. Bellon makes his case by connecting Victorian cultural values, the emphasis on scientific practice, and the actual strategies employed by Darwin and his supporters in the fight over evolutionary theory. His argument about national standards of scientific labor has wider implications for how to evaluate and compare scientific practice, nationally and internationally, in relationship to widely shared ideals. In one elegantly told story, we have an excellent demonstration of the differentiated roles played by scientific ideas and practices, and by discourses at three levels--popular, broadly-professional, and more closely peer-based--in scientific theory choice.


- Katharine Anderson, Chair
- Alan Rocke
-Zuoyue Wang

Pamela HensonJoseph H. Hazen Education Prize: Peter Pesic

The 2013 Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize is awarded to Peter Pesic, a Tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College in Santa Fe. A physicist, historian, and pianist, Pesic navigates the interdisciplinary curriculum at St. John's with aplomb. He engages his students not only in the canonical texts, but also in hands-on observations and laboratory experiences that replicate famous experiments where possible. His students explore the fundamental scientific questions posed from the time of Aristotle to modern physics and genetics, but are asked to think critically on their own. Here Pesic has adopted a radically Socratic teaching philosophy summed up by these words: "Perhaps today I will understand a little bit more. Can you help me?" Outside of the classroom Pesic has also brought the history of science to audiences well beyond our discipline in general essays and numerous books. Some are critical editions of the works of Maxwell, Gauss, Weyl, and others with copious explanations. Others are tour de-force yet accessible works on the blueness of the sky; mathematical insolvability; quantum theory, literature, and identity; and the methods of science, the arts, and philosophy. Topics like Young's musical optics are original and invigorating. Peter Pesic is an excellent scholar, a gifted musician, and a concerned mentor of students, who has charted new ways of bringing our field to the attention of many outside it.


- Sara J. Schechner, Chair
- Frederick Gregory
- Elizabeth Neswald

Yi-Li Wu and Paul FarberMargaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize: Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Sally Kohlstedt's Teaching Children Science: Hands-on Nature Study in North America in many ways is a cultural "biography." As such, it examines the life and death of nature study, and even the influential after-life of this understudied and underappreciated aspect of science education, placing it historically within the early twentieth-century American experience. Long before a formal program for elementary school children was established, the general culture stressed the aesthetics, usefulness, and pure enjoyment that could be derived from a study of nature. During the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, children's books on nature became so popular that some educators combined the idea of nature study with concurrent broad intellectual changes in educational theory.

Throughout the narrative, Kohlstedt carefully considers women's contributions and discusses the dynamics of gender across the many dimensions of the nature study movement, including books, geography, theory, curricular materials, professional
identities, institutions, and, of course, students. Since teachers were essential for the success of the movement and most of the new teachers were women, the implementation of the nature study curriculum extended Rossiter's "women's work in science" to provide a new niche for women trained in science and interested in administration.

As Kohlstedt describes the pedagogical and cultural enthusiasm that made a "hands-on" nature study program possible, she notes the problems that a "one size fits all" curriculum presented. Still, even though the implementation of a nature study curriculum in the cities by necessity differed from that in rural areas, proponents found common characteristics such as hands-on local experiences that could be applied. Since the way that the curriculum progresseddepended on the actors who developed it, Kohlstedt describes the interactions among different educators and between educators and the community. She discusses the difficulties in establishing professional identities for teachers, who often had little more than a normal school education, the problems of standardizing a curriculum that utilized such localized subject matter, and the challenge of preparing teachers who lacked the advantages of the textbook writers.

Even as nature study lost its curricular hold, its premises infused an appreciation of science in other institutions such as the scouting movements, museum education programs, botanical gardens, and many other places that young people could learn about nature. Its vestiges are found today in elementary science classes that often include outdoor classrooms. Readers will discover that Kohlstedt's perceptive analysis of the nature study movement provides us with creative new insights into children's experiences of science. Kohlstedt emphasizes the pivotal role of women in enlarging the audience for science.

- Marilyn Ogilvie , Chair
- Rima Apple
- Donald Opitz

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