M. Norton Wise, Distinguished Research Professor of History (emeritus) at the University of California, Los Angeles, has won the History of Science Society’s 2019 Sarton Medal for lifetime scholarly achievement.
Wise is best known for his fundamental work in the history of physics. His Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin (Cambridge University Press, 1989, co-authored with Crosbie Smith) won the 1990 Pfizer Prize, and he followed this book with three companion articles, “Work and Waste: Political Economy and Natural Philosophy in Nineteenth Century Britain,” published in History of Science in 1989 and 1990. Together, these works set out a new way of understanding science. He showed that science is not just embedded in culture, but is also a part of it, drawing its resources from the specificity of a particular time and place.
Wise’s contributions to the history of physics have been very substantial, but his most recent book, Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society (University of Chicago Press, 2018), demonstrates how adept he is at traversing a variety of domains. He covers innovations in mechanics, physiology, and steam technology; adduces a wide range of sources including equations, paintings, and buildings; and keenly captures the role of aesthetics in mid-nineteenth-century German science.
And he is as excellent an editor as he is an author, producing several exemplary edited volumes, including Values of Precision (Princeton University Press, 1995), Growing Explanations: Historical Perspectives on Recent Science (Duke University Press, 2004), and (with Angela N. H. Creager and Elizabeth Lunbeck) Science without Laws: Model Systems, Cases, and Exemplary Narratives (Duke University Press, 2007).
Wise’s contribution to the history of science extends beyond his research. At UCLA, he was a founding co-director of the Institute for Society and Genetics, an initiative to bring together modern biomedical science, history of science, legal scholarship, and ethics. He also cultivated rich history of science communities, not once, but three times: first at UCLA, next at Princeton University, and then again at UCLA.
Dozens of Wise’s students continue to enrich the field with their research and teaching.
The History of Science Society (est. 1924) is the world’s largest society dedicated to understanding science, technology, medicine, and their interactions with society in historical context. Over 3,000 individual and institutional members across the world support the Society’s mission to foster interest in the history of science, promote discussion of science’s social and cultural relations, and bring this understanding to others worldwide.
We welcome graduate students to volunteer for the annual meeting. Volunteering may include meeting preparation, working the registration desk, and helping with the book exhibit. It presents a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow graduate students and other colleagues in the field. In exchange for 4.5 hours of work, the HSS will waive your registration fees. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete the form below, indicating all times you are available. Once your hours have been confirmed, you will be able to register for HSS at the complimentary volunteer rate. (If you’ve already registered, we can refund your registration fee.) Register via the online volunteer form.
The 48th volume of the HSS Newsletter is now online. The 2019 January issue promises to be a good read. Projit Mukharji outlines what he plans to do as the new book review editor for Isis when he steps into that role on 1 July. Jim Endersby, whose book Orchid won the Society’s Davis Prize for best book for a general audience, describes the gestation of the book as he figured out how to live with cancer. Massimo Mazzotti provides an inspiring account of the Genoa Science Festival this past November, a city that was still reeling from the horrific collapse of a major bridge in the city center. Maria Rentetzi provides an overview of nuclear science and diplomacy project and its first meeting being held in Sokendai, Japan. We also have 8 pages of Member News, a touching piece on the late Adolf Grünbaum, and news of the profession, including a new prize announcement by our newest interest group, the Forum for the History of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences.