History of Science Society 2015 Awards

Congratulations to our 2015 award recipients! They were acknowledged at the 2015 HSS Meeting Awards Ceremony on Saturday, November 21 in San Francisco. See citations below.


Evan Hepler‐Smith (Princeton University): Nathan Reingold Prize for best essay by a graduate student

The 2015 Reingold Prize is awarded to Evan Hepler‐Smith, of Princeton University, for his essay “’A way of thinking backwards’: Chemists, computers, and a once and future method.” The essay skillfully recounts the history of a critical methEvan Helper-Smith Prize photood in organic chemistry—retrosynthetic analysis— while proposing a new way of understanding the role of computers in the history of science. Evan Hepler‐ Smith’s insightful paper follows organic chemist E.J. Corey’s development of a computer program (LHASA) aimed at both “emulating” and aiding human chemists in the task of organic synthesis. Hepler‐Smith finds that the program played a number of crucial roles for Corey in the 1960s and 1970s, functioning as a means of both refining existing methods and developing new methods. Through the construction of LHASA, retrosynthetic analysis itself emerged, “at once a well‐ established and transformative way of thinking about synthetic design,” a method that was “neither discovered nor constructed but unfurled.” Contrasting Corey with fellow Harvard organic chemist R.B. Woodward, Hepler‐Smith describes how Corey systematized Woodward’s conception of organic synthesis as art, taking Woodward’s “imaginative leaps” as “objects of study in themselves.” Hepler‐Smith adeptly illustrates how the construction of LHASA enabled Corey to organize the previously inarticulable and intuitive process of organic synthesis into an “orderly set of strategies.” Through this history, Hepler‐Smith provocatively suggests that computer programs may be regarded as simultaneously embodying and transmuting existing human scientific methods; and, in homage to its alchemical roots, chemistry may still be practiced as both an art and a science.

Rachel Mason Dentinger (chair), Alexander Jones, and Helen Curry

Sally Gregory Kohlstedt (University of Minnesota): Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize for excellence in education

The Hazen Education Prize is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to the teaching of history of science. Educational activities recognized by the award are to be construed in the broadest sense. The committee for the Joseph H. Full page photo2
Hazen Education Prize is honored to present this year’s award to Sally Gregory Kohlstedt. Sally began her working life as a teacher, and throughout her career as a historian of science at several different institutions, teaching and mentoring have been central to her professional activities. From her early career, she has been an advocate for education and has not been afraid to experiment with innovative pedagogical methods, whether this meant exploring the early possibilities of the Internet for interactive course projects or turning the city of Boston into a teaching resource.

For a scholar who is such a dedicated teacher, it is perhaps only fitting that she has turned her research interest to its history as well. In fact, in her book Teaching Children Science, which won the Rossiter Prize of the HSS in 2013, Sally combines teaching with another area of her outstanding activity: women and science. For Sally, the topic of women and science is not simply a historical interest. In addition to her many publications and courses on science, women and gender, she is an active supporter of women both in the history of science, and through her outreach activities in the sciences as well.

Above all, Sally has been a beloved mentor to countless undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are continuing her legacy as historians of science and of women’s history and as effective and passionate mentors themselves. In the words of one of her former pupils, “She teaches us how to mentor.”

Elizabeth Neswald (chair); Nancy Slack; John Rudolph

Christopher Crenner (University of Kansas Medical Center): Derek Price/Rod Webster Prize for best article in Isis

Christopher Crenner, “Race and Laboratory Norms: The Critical Insights of Julian Herman Lewis (1891‐1989),” Isis 105, no. 3 (September 2014): 477‐507.

Christopher Crenner’s striking and nuanced examination of Julian Herman Lewis advances our understanding of twentieth‐
century biomedicine along several axes. The establishment of “normal” values in routine clinical laboratory tests during the first half of the twentieth century represented a major development in medicine but, as Crenner observes, historians understand this process better in theory than in practice. In Lewis, Crenner found a rich subject to illuminate the lab benches and hospital wards where the parameters of “normal” were established, with often troubling consequences. As one of a small number of black research physicians at the time, Lewis had the perspective and the skill to challenge how social norms and racial hierarchies distorted in practice what were in theory supposed to be universal values.

Using Lewis’s research on blood types as a springboard, Crenner opens a broader discussion of the growth of clinical pathology as a discipline, and its early institutionalization of a set of “normal” values that took white male physiology as the benchmark. There is emotional poignancy at the heart of this intellectually satisfying study, as practices of racial exclusion limited the reach of Lewis’s hard work and theoretical insight by isolating him not only from white colleagues but black ones as well. Employing a wide variety of sources and deftly weaving together multiple perspectives, Crenner tells a story at once personal, institutional, and scientific, integrating medical practice and race into a coherent and innovative biographical study that well deserves the Price/Webster Prize.

Zuoyue Wang (chair); Anita Guerrini; Richard Bellon

Amy Sue Bix (Iowa State University): Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize for best book on the role of women in science

This year’s committee awards the Rossiter Prize to Amy Sue Bix for her book Girls Coming to Tech! A History of American Engineering Education for Women. The book is not just excellent, but also path‐breaking.BixBix has done for women engineers in the United States what Margaret Rossiter did for women scientists. Bix’s book builds upon a rich literature on women scientists, but engineers are not scientists: they are educated differently and in very different cultural milieus. By thus addressing a major gap in gender studies scholarship, Girls Coming to Tech! represents a truly remarkable achievement.

Bix’s monograph explains not only the challenges and triumphs of women in engineering programs, but also the masculinist cultures of those programs that shaped women’s experiences. Without a general survey of US engineering education at her disposal (none exists), Bix skillfully builds up the rich contours of that history in which she analyzes her specific subjects. That broader context includes not only national trends in engineering education but also the military and industrial imperatives driving those trends. So, for example, we learn about the so‐called Curtiss‐Wright “Cadettes,” who were trained during World War II to remedy a shortage of engineering “manpower,” a context popularly known for its famous “Rosie‐the‐Riveter” iconography. Focused analyses of the climates for women at three leading but wildly different programs, Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, and MIT, explain the barriers that discouraged women from thriving in those programs. The comparison of these institutions is made richer with examples from other programs.

MIT Press’s “Engineering Studies” series foreword to the book perceptively points out how, despite efforts to push women’s enrollments above “the perplexing and frustrating ceiling of 19 percent,” no one has addressed the question of “how women achieved that level in the first place.” Bix’s book illuminates this very question; moreover, it surveys a range of feminist and higher education policy initiatives that have worked toward conveying that “Engineering has been, and is, for women.” Girls Coming to Tech! is an unparalleled tour de force, a significant contribution to the history of women in science and technology and gender studies of higher education.

Donald Opitz (chair); Gwen Kay; Ruth Cowan

Martin J.S. Rudwick (Cambridge University): Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize for best book for a general audience

The History of Science Society awards the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize each year to “the author of a book Rudwick, Martinuseful in undergraduate teaching or which promotes public understanding of the history of science.” This year’s committee is honored to announce the award of the 2015 Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize to Martin J. S. Rudwick, for his wonderful Earth’s Deep History: How it was Discovered and Why it Matters.

Earth’s Deep History considers geology as a historical science. Beginning with Archbishop James Ussher’s calculation of the Earth’s age in the 17th century, Rudwick explores the transformation of human understanding of the Earth’s age and our presence within its vast history. Arguing that this understanding emerged not in opposition to Biblical interpretations of Earth’s history but from them, he guides his readers through many reconstructions of the past. Expanding interest in field observation and collection in the 18th and 19th centuries gradually brought a realization that human history represented only a tiny span of Earth’s past. As Rudwick moves deftly into the 20th century, he shows us how understanding of radioactivity led to absolute dating, quantifying the enormity of time.
Rudwick argues, in the end, that knowledge of the Earth was transformed by the importation of history and historical method into the study of nature. Human history brought the idea of contingency to nature, and a realization that the world as we know it could not have been predicted in advance. His beautifully accessible analysis thus makes history central to the study of the geosciences.

The distillation of a life’s work, Earth’s Deep History offers the broader public a share of the great gift that we have long cherished, thanks to the insightful generosity of Rudwick’s scholarship. We wish him many more years of productive engagement, both for his sake and ours.

Erik M. Conway (chair); Lissa Roberts; Bert Theunissen

Daniel P. Todes (Johns Hopkins University): Pfizer Award for best scholarly book

The Pfizer Prize for 2015 is awarded to a book that has been decades in the making, and that will surely be the definitive work on its subject for decades to come. Daniel Todes’s Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science takes full advantage of the todesopening of Russian archives since 1989 to provide a revelatory account of the character and extraordinary ambition of one of the modern world’s most casually invoked scientists, yet perhaps the least properly known of all. At the same time it tells a gripping story of how a controversial scientific enterprise could be built up and sustained amid the chaos of war, revolution, and tyranny.

Pavlov’s “quest,” as Todes aptly calls it, may have begun with the kinds of conditional reflexes that we still popularly call Pavlovian, but those were only the beginning. At a series of increasingly elaborate laboratories, he and his co‐ workers attempted to develop a systematic, objective science of the human psyche itself. In pursuit of this ultimate goal, they sought to measure psycho‐physiological phenomena by exposing surgically‐treated dogs to stimuli of different kinds and in various combinations. They hoped eventually to uncover a cumulative system of “associations,” building from simple reflexes to complex psychological states. Todes never understates the difficulty and indeed cruelty of these experiments. Yet what Pavlov and his team envisaged was not a crudely instrumental or reductive view. On the contrary, they regarded the dogs themselves as collaborators, each possessed of an individual “nervous type” that shaped its participation. In the end, Pavlov came to understand his own psychological propensity for science in the very terms he had refined in the lab. “That which I see in dogs,” he remarked, “I immediately transfer to myself.”

Pavlov’s active life as a scientist lasted some sixty years. Beginning in 1870 when he matriculated at St. Petersburg University, it continued uninterrupted until almost the day of his death in 1936. It therefore spanned perhaps the most violent and volatile decades in Russia’s history. Inheriting the positivist outlook of Tsarist Russia’s 1860s modernizers, Pavlov had to adapt to successive regimes of autocracy, nationalism, and communism. He struggled incessantly to sustain his researches through repression, revolution, civil war, famine, and, in the end, the rise of Stalin’s totalitarian dictatorship. Many times in the 1920s‐30s he had to exert himself to save coworkers and colleagues threatened with expulsion, arrest, or even starvation. The great achievement of Todes’s biography is not only to make visible Pavlov’s scientific mission, but to show at the same time the conflicts and compromises he undertook to pursue it. The paradoxes of science’s relationship to the modern state are very evident here, for Pavlov himself was loudly critical of the regime that supported his extensive research programs. That the Communist government never turned against him was testimony both to his international renown and to the temptation Soviet leaders felt to regard the science, if not the scientist, as heralding a materialism in tune with their own ideals.

Ivan Pavlov is a long and complex book. It makes demands of its readers. Compelling in both intellectual and emotional terms, its moral complexity will surely tempt many to compare it to a great Russian novel. For once, such comparisons are justified. There are passages here – like the minutely poised exchanges between the cussed Pavlov and the fluent, doomed revolutionary Nikolai Bukharin – that remind us of the Dostoyevsky whom Pavlov himself had once known. Not many works of history would hold up in such company. This one does.

Adrian Johns (chair); Nancy Siraisi; John Tresch

Neale Wheeler Watson (Science History Publications): Outstanding Service Award

1db8a4fIn 1982, HSS President Gerald Holton proposed that the HSS establish a new distinguished service award for “Society members who carry out HSS business with distinction.” The History of Science Society is proud to award the Outstanding Service Award to Neale Wheeler Watson. Mr. Watson is a familiar figure at meetings of the History of Science Society and at history of science, technology, and medicine conferences in the USA, UK, Sweden, Italy, and elsewhere. As a publisher, he is known for his active and enthusiastic interest in the scholarship of the authors, books, and edited volumes published under his Science History Publications/USA imprints. These publications began in 1972 with The Influence of Early Enlightenment Thought upon German Classical Science and Letters, edited by Ronald S. Calinger. A notable long‐term publication is the prize‐winning set of twelve volumes of The Papers of Joseph Henry, begun in 1972 under the editorship of Nathan Reingold and concluded in 2008 under the editorship of Marc Rothenberg. Another distinguished series is the Uppsala Studies in History of Science, which includes both monographs and edited volumes. In recent years Neale Wheeler Watson has sponsored an annual lecture series at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm and a series of Seminars in the Material and Visual History of Science in Pavia.

Robert Fox (University of Oxford, emeritus): Sarton Medal for lifetime scholarly achievement

The 2015 History of Science Society Sarton Medal honoree is Robert Fox, Emeritus Professor of the History of Science at the University of Oxford. Robert has been a distinguished contributor to and leader of our discipline for nearly five decades. foxOriginally from a scientific background (physics), as was common in the 1960s, he claimed a D. Phil. from the Faculty of Modern History in Oxford. His thesis, entitled: “The study of the thermal properties of gases in relation to physical theory from Montgolfier to Regnault (1967),” was supervised by Alistair Crombie, another leading figure of our discipline.

From that seminal training, with Koyréan resonances, Robert launched a remarkably cosmopolitan and multicultural career. Retaining early interests in the history of thermodynamics and the work of Sadi Carnot, Laplace, and others, he soon added newer research questions engaging with Mertonian social and institutional factors. An influential volume co‐edited with George Weisz, The Organization of Science and Technology in France, 1808‐1914 (1980), is indicative of this move to the social. This pioneering volume examined the institutional structures of French science across several disciplines. Robert’s contribution on “The savant confronts his peers: scientific societies in France, 1815‐1914,” provided a how‐to‐do manual for writing on the history of scientific societies and French scientific institutions. Its many influences can be traced in the works of Mary Jo Nye, the late Harry W. Paul, and the historians of technology, Andrew J. Butrica, Paolo Brenni, and many others. Fox’s tenure at the University of Lancaster (1966‐88) allowed him to collaborate with other professional historians of science and future leaders of our profession including John H. Brooke and Peter Harman. He edited the British Journal for the History of Science (1971‐1977) and, in line with his insistence that history of science not lose touch with the objects of its study, recently completed a term as editor of Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London where he was the first non‐Fellow of the Royal Society to serve in that function.

Robert’s familiarity with the broad sweep of modern European science and technology and his facility in the French language led to appointment as Director of the Centre de recherche en histoire des sciences et des techniques (CRHST), Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, Paris (1986–88). Finally, his chair as Professor of the History of Science at the University of Oxford (1988‐2006) consolidated a unique and creative intellectual career. Since retirement, Robert has continued to work passionately and intensively. His book The Savant and the State (2012) seemed to culminate his enormous contribution to the culture of science in nineteenth‐century France, yet still another book, forthcoming in 2016, Science without Frontiers. Cosmopolitanism and National Interest in the World of Learning, 1870‐1940, examines world fairs, politics, and information practices across several municipalities and nations.

In addition to these two volumes, and some ten articles and chapters since retirement, Robert has edited or co‐edited three additional volumes since 2010: Franco‐British Interaction in Science Since the Seventeenth Century (2010); Thomas Harriot and his World. Mathematics, Exploration, and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England (2012); and with Jed Buchwald The Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics (2013). In addition to his scholarship, Robert’s impact on our field is seen in his mentorship and advocacy activities that have broad and continuing impact on the current generation of historians of science and technology.

Robert’s passion for French science and culture has been, and still is today, a driving force of his career. His tenure at the CHRST did not appreciably slow his stream of publication and resulted in The Culture of Science in France, 1700–1900 (1992) and Science, Industry, and the Social Order in Post‐revolutionary France (1995). In Paris, Robert made a deep impact on a generation of French and other historians of science including Dominique Pestre, Christine Blondel, Jean‐Marc Drouin, Yves Cohen, and Bernadette Bensaude‐Vincent. Robert’s mastery of Anglo‐American and French scholarship drew these younger scholars to engage with newer trends of British and American historiography. The CRHST program of postdoctoral training, preceding that of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science by the better part of a decade, launched the careers of several historians of science in the USA and Europe. Even during his Oxford years, Robert was a frequent lecturer at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris) and worked behind the scenes to secure financing for the history of electricity and business history (e.g. Electricité de France).

Robert’s chair in Oxford, at the core of refined British culture, continued his allegiance to European multiculturalism. His activities provided a pivot for a vibrant and truly European international research school for the history of science frequently in conjunction with the Maison française de Oxford. Foreign scholars including Anna Guagnini, Paola Bertucci, Faidra Papanelopoulou, Agustí Nieto‐Galan, Giuliano Pancaldi, and Stathis Araposthatis, felt warmly welcomed and supported. There they enjoyed intellectual exchange with others such as Viviane Quirke, Katherine Watson, Graeme Gooday, and Roger Hutchins and benefitted from the unfailing support of Jim Bennett at the Museum of the History of Science.

Fox has also contributed substantially to the history of technology and effected a dialogue of sorts with economic and business history. For example, historiographical reflections came to the fore after he hosted an international conference on “Technological Change” at Oxford (1991) to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the famous Oxford conference on the “The Structure of Scientific Change” organized in 1961 by Alistair Crombie. There, a young Thomas Kuhn had sketched some of the ideas soon to appear in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. As a result of the 1991 Conference, Robert edited Technological Change. Methods and Themes in the History of Technology (1996). Consideration of industrial research, pure and applied science, technical education, and other related issues form the core of additional editing work with Anna Guagnini: Education, Technology and Industrial Performance in Europe, 1850– 1939 1993, Laboratories, Workshops, and Sites (1999); and with Agustí Nieto‐Galan: Natural Dyestuffs and Industrial Culture in Europe 1750– 1880 (1999).

Robert’s steadfast insistence on the international character of our discipline resulted in his election as president of the Division of History of Science (1993‐1997) of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science. He was also the founding president of the European Society for the History of Science (2003‐2006), now a robust and inclusive group gaining strength and members with each passing year. He has been equally supportive of the international research group STEP (Science and Technology in the European Periphery), which in the last fifteen years has brought to the fore new aspects of the scientific culture of European contexts that do not fit with the hegemonic three big nations (Britain, Germany and France) and the dominant historiography. Robert’s vision anticipated some of the current prominent trends in global and transnational history of science, and the urge to push historiographical categories beyond the frame of the nation‐state.

Thus we are pleased that the selection committee has recognized Robert’s innovative and impactful scholarship, his leadership in the profession, and his mentorship and support of generations of scholars on several continents. Robert does indeed possess a rare set of skills and virtues meriting the highest recognition of his peers, that of the History of Science Society’s Sarton Medal.

Agustí Nieto‐Galan and Michael A. Osborne