M. Norton Wise | 2019 Sarton Medal Winner
M. Norton Wise, 2019 Sarton Medal Winner

Photo: Annette Hornischer

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.

Energy and Empire book cover

Energy & Empire: A biographical study of Lord Kelvin by Crosbie Smith & M. Norton Wise

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.

Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society book cover

Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society by M. Norton Wise

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 Sarton Medal will be awarded to Professor Wise at the annual meeting of the History of Science Society, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, 25 July 2019. See past winners of the Sarton Medal.

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.

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New Issue of Isis (June 2019)

🔔 New Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society

🗓 Vol. 110, No. 2 | June 2019

⇨ Featuring a Focus Section on Explanation in the History of Science

Isis Journal Cover for Volume 110, Number 2 | June 2019

Call for Volunteers

Call for Volunteers

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.

HSS Newsletter – January 2019

Newsletter 2019 - Cover ImageThe 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.

Download a PDF of the January 2019 Newsletter.

Noteworthy Books of 2018, 2017, 2016

Noteworthy Books

What was a noteworthy history of science book published in 2018? Or, because we all know we’re a bit behind on our reading list, published in 2017 or 2016? Complete the form to submit your pick!

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2018 Prize Winners

Prize Booklet Cover

The History of Science Society’s 2018 Prize Winners

Congratulations to these preeminent scholars in the field! See more info and prize citations.


NASA Fellowship Winner Ockert

Ingrid Ockert
NASA Fellowship


Ohad Reiss Sorokin - HSS Prize Ceremony 2018

Ohad Reiss Sorokin
Nathan Reingold Prize


Ohad Reiss Sorokin - HSS Prize Ceremony 2018

Field Life

Jeremy Vetter
Philip J. Pauly Prize


Owen James Hyman
Ronald Rainger Prize


Levinson Winner Richards

Evelleen Richards
Suzanne J. Levinson Prize


Eghigian-Price Webster

“A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany.” Isis 106, no. 2 (March 2015): 283-309.

Greg Eghigian
Derek Price/Rod Webster Prize


The Embryo Project, Steve Elliot and Erica Leigh O’Neill
Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize


Kara Swanson - HSS Prize Ceremony 2018

“Rubbing Elbows and Blowing Smoke: Gender, Class, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Patent Office,” Isis 108, no. 1 (March 2017): 40-61.

Kara Swanson
Margaret W. Rossiter Prize


Jim Endersby - HSS Prize Ceremony 2018

Jim Endersby
Watson Davis & Helen Miles Davis Prize


Anita Guerrini - HSS Prize Ceremony 2018

Anita Guerrini
Pfizer Award


Sally Gregory Kohlstedt
Sarton Medal