History of Science Society 2016 Awards

Congratulations to our 2016 award recipients! They were acknowledged at the 2016 HSS Meeting Awards Ceremony on Saturday, November 5 in Atlanta. See citations below.

Adam Richter (University of Toronto)Nathan Reingold Prize for best essay by a graduate student

In “Nature Doth Not Work by Election: John Wallis (1616-1703) on Natural and Divine Action,” Adam Richter illuminates the thought of one of the richter-photo-croppedprominent figures involved in the search for mathematical laws of nature during the 17th century by expertly confronting Wallis’s writings on experimental physics with his theological works. As Richter shows through his reading of several key texts, Wallis conceived of natural action as regular, mathematical, and predictable, and he held that a certain set of mathematically described regularities or laws would suffice to describe all natural phenomena. Yet Wallis also believed in the possibility of divine intervention. Richter deftly argues that Wallis excluded the present-day occurrence of miracles, that is, natural phenomena not determined by, or indeed contrary to, these laws, not because God’s freedom to intervene in the world is limited, but precisely because God is free to choose how to intervene; and since biblical times, God has chosen to intervene only in people’s minds and souls, as in the process of Election by which the salvation of individuals is brought about. Despite the Calvinist context of this principle that “Nature doth not work by Election,” however, Richter argues persuasively that Wallis adopted it from the 13th century Scholastic philosopher Grosseteste, extending it to cover the mechanical philosophy emerging in his own time. Sensitive to the influences of scholasticism and religion as well as 17th century natural philosophy, Richter’s article sheds new light on the development of ideas about the “laws of nature” at a crucial juncture.

Alex Jones (chair); Helen Curry; Karl Hall


Joan L. Richards (Brown University): Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize for excellence in education

The Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to the teaching of history of science. Educational activities richards-photo-croppedrecognized by the award are to be construed in the broadest sense. The committee for the Joseph P. Hazen Education Prize is honored to present this year’s prize to Joan L. Richards of Brown University.

Joan has been an exceptional teacher of history of science at both theundergraduate and graduate level, an “astonishing teacher” in the words of one of her students because of her deep commitment to welcoming students into history of science studies and then helping them to pursue rigorous analysis. Joan was originally the only professor teaching history of science at Brown. She developed three courses and used innovative methods: in “The Rise of the Scientific World View” students used cheap telescopes “as good and hard to use as Galileo’s” she said, to make actual night sky observations. Joan has won many awards including an NSF Parallax Award for courses incorporating experimentation into the curriculum.

Joan has served as mentor to many undergraduate students who went on to graduate studies and to careers in history of science, including a new generation of historians of mathematics, her own field, in which she has published two major books and many articles. Her mentoring and outreach have gone beyond Brown University to graduate students at neighboring Harvard and MIT.  As a scholar, dedicated and innovative teacher, and consummate mentor in the history of science, Joan Richards highly deserves this award.

Nancy Slack (chair); John Rudolph; Mark Waddell


Megan Raby (University of Texas at Austin): Derek Price/Rod Webster Prize for best article in Isis

Megan Raby, “Ark and Archive: Making a Place for Long-Term Research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama,”Isis 106, no. 4 (2015): 798-824.raby-cropped

In 1904, Barro Colorado Island (BCI) did not exist.  An artifact of the building of the Panama Canal, the former hilltop emerged as a six-square-mile island and was designated a reserve in 1923. Megan Raby’s beautifully written essay, “Ark and Archive: Making a Place for Long-Term Research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama,” explores both the meaning of science—in this case, natural history and ecology – and the meaning of history as a discipline deeply embedded in archives.  Raby’s essay provides a sweeping account of one of the world’s most important field stations for tropical ecology.  The BCI’s diluvial origin resonated with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, and both biologists and journalists adopted the concept of an “ark” to define (and sanctify) the island as a place of preservation and study.  But as long-term ecological research changed the island, it also became an archive, a repository of scientific knowledge.  Through her reconstruction of the profound reciprocal interactions between the island and generations of researchers, Raby makes a convincing case for  ecology itself as a science of the archive,  an especially meaningful characterization as we seek answers in the past to ecological change in the present and future.  While the island might eventually have failed as an ark, she argues, it succeeded   as a living archive of long-term change.  The members of the 2016 Price-Webster Prize committee – Anita Guerrini (chair), Richard Bellon, and Massimo Mazzotti – are happy to award the prize for the best article in Isis from 2013-15 to Megan Raby.

Anita Guerrini (chair); Richard Bellon; Massimo Mazzotti


Nick Hopwood (University of Cambridge):Suzanne J. Levinson Prize for best  book in the history of the life sciences and natural history

In Haeckel’s Embryos. Images, Evolution, and Fraud (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Nick Hopwood offers a richly illustrated history, twice over.  It is a study of pictures and diagrams, reproduced in remarkably generous quantity and quality.  And it is a work of thorough and thoughtful scholarship, showing by example how to take images seriously in re-examining the scientific past.

Hopwood’s topic is the history of the nineteenth-century German naturalist Ernst Haeckel’s embryological illustrations, concentrating on those used in the hopwood-photovarious editions of his Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte and Anthropogenie, along with their repetition, re-appropriation and repudiation in dozens of other publications, from textbooks to libellous pamphlets.  Roughly chronological in organization, the book looks at the periodic controversies that broke out during Haeckel’s lifetime about fakery and fraud, none of which kept his images from becoming extraordinarily widespread – as teaching tools and as evidence for evolution, even as icons – throughout the twentieth century.

haeckels-embryosThis is not, for specialists, wholly unexplored territory.  But what makes Haeckel’s Embryos stand out is the novel perspective it offers.  Readers are enabled to see afresh pictures that had become clichéd by their familiarity.  As a biography of images, woodcuts, books, editions, and ideas as much as of Haeckel himself, Haeckel’s Embryos assigns each element of the story a role, often grounded in the social and political struggles of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Germany, notably between various religious and secular movements, but also between scientific disciplines jostling for power and audiences.  A family tree of images is painstakingly traced through new editions, legitimate and pirated.  Everywhere the research is formidable, yet expressed with an enviable lightness of touch.  What could easily have been heavy going is a pleasure to read.

Well beyond the confines of the history of the evolutionary debates, Haeckel’s Embryos will be appreciated as a model for work which considers controversy, images, reproduction and transmission of all kinds.  It is also a welcome reminder of what scholars can do when given time to research.  The decade-plus that this book required for its ontogeny is, Hopwood acknowledges, an increasingly rare privilege.  The benefits, in his pages, are there for all to see.

Gregory Radick (chair); Elena Aronova; Vanessa Heggie


Paola Bertucci (Yale University): Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize for best article on the role of women in sciencebertucci-photo

Paola Bertucci, “The In/visible Woman: Mariangela Ardinghelli and the Circulation of Knowledge between Paris and Naples in the Eighteenth Century”

Her article is a very fine piece of historical scholarship in research, argument, and methodology. Historiographically, she brings to the fore a woman known to many in her time but who has had no visibility for us, for reasons that the essay unpacks. It’s an exemplary piece of work about a woman who connected people across countries and disciplines. The woman scientist on whom the piece focuses was doing science precisely in the way that a man of her class, geographic location and time-period would have been doing science—except that he would not have had to operate from the shadows. Even more, after her father’s death, with the loss of her male protector, Ardinghelli carefully and deftly straddled the line between a public presence as an intellectual with her role as an unmarried woman. It isn’t easy to write an historical narrative about a person who is behaving in a semi-secret fashion, but Bertucci succeeds admirably.

Gwen Kay (chair); Ruth Cowan; Rusty Shteir


Jacob Darwin Hamblin (Oregon State 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 useful in undergraduate teaching or which promotesjakehamblin1-cropped public understanding of the history of science.” This year’s committee, consisting of Erik Conway, chair, Bert Theunissen, and Mark Barrow, is honored to announce the award of the 2016 Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize to Jacob Darwin Hamblin, for his fascinating Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism.

Arming Mother Nature traces postwar American scientists’ role in facilitating the study of ecosystems for military purposes. That American scientists became deeply arming-mother-natureentwined with the American security state after World War II is a well-told tale, but Hamblin shows us a new aspect of that entanglement. Biological, chemical, atmospheric and geologic processes were all ‘on the table’ during the global Cold War as means to defeat the enemy, and scientists served as both developers and analysts of these not-always new kinds of weapons. Along the way, they advocated for and gained global monitoring, and modelling, systems, in part to determine whether or not such large-scale weapons might work. “Environmental warfare” thus laid the groundwork for a global environmental consciousness as well as global science. Yet some scientists turned away from this weaponeering and developed a rhetoric of catastrophe should such weapons be used; this is the origin of Hamblin’s “catastrophic environmentalism.”

Hamblin’s reframing of American environmental and military history is motivated by the question of how American scientists largely came to believe that “they were capable of changing the natural environment on a large scale.”  He explores this key issue through numerous examples and a highly readable prose style. Arming Mother Nature is an outstanding example of what interdisciplinary research and writing for a broad audience can achieve.  

Erik M. Conway; Bert Theunissen; Mark Barrow


Omar W. Nasim (University of Regensburg): Pfizer Award for best scholarly book

This year the Pfizer Committee (consisting of Nancy Siraisi, John Tresch and Crosbie Smith (Chair)) drew up a short list of about 20 titles from a range of authors, periods and publishers. From the outset, it was clear to Committee members that the standard of scholarship was as impressive as ever and that the task of narrowing the selection down to a final list of 3-5 books over the summer months was set to be a challenging, if also thoroughly enjoyable one. In reaching our decision we continually kept in mind that the prize is awarded in recognition of an outstanding book dealing with the history of science published in English during one of the three calendar years immediately preceding the year of the competition.nasim-photo1-cropped

The Committee’s final and unanimous choice was Omar Nasim’s Observing by Hand. Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013.

In recent years, many historians of science have argued for close studies of the materiality of scientific practice and observation; Observing by Hand delivers on these prescriptions with a thoroughness and attention to detail nearly unprecedented in our field.

As its title adroitly suggests, the book shows that observation is not simply a matter for the eye but rather for the hand: that in attempting to capture the visual lineaments of wavering objects, the practiced gestures of the hand directly contribute to knowledge of them, stabilizing and shaping them, and readying them for communication to wider audiences.

Observing by Hand further shows just how many distinct methods of drawing existed, and how debates about facts and theories were also debates about methods and skills of drawing. Images of nebulae make for a particularly apt choice of subject with which to bring out these themes, as they were among the largest, most distant, and most hotly contested objects under discussion in 19th century science, widely reprinted and commented upon — due not least to their importance for debates about creation and evolution, including the controversial “nebular hypothesis”.

The very term “nebulous” has come to mean anything vague and wavering — thus the efforts to make nebulae precise and stable highlight the profound tensions within projects of making knowledge. More than showing that observations are laden with theory, the book demonstrates how acts of “representation” are in fact acts of “intervention”, in giving objects form and outlines. Thus the book brings considerable philosophical nuance and depth to questions concerning the variable practices and epistemic values in observation.

Observing by Hand also shows the forms of observatory management and accounting practices — in registries and book-keeping methods — needed to make the observations of multiple individuals bear upon a single, consistent object. It further shows drawing as a widespread cultural practice, connecting these late-night observers to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, Ruskin, Turner, and de Quincey. It also makes exceptional use of a wide variety of archival and material sources (many beautifully reproduced on its pages). In a period when mechanical reproduction and ideals of automatic observation were taking hold, it shows the persistent importance of hand-drawing and manuscripts. The book is a history of media as much as it is a history of the stabilization of objects, circulation of images, and the tension and constant dialogue between hand and eye.

In short, Omar Nasim’s achievement speaks to many different audiences: to historians of astronomy, to historians of science more broadly, to historians of science communication, to historians of art, to sociologists of science, and to philosophers of science, for example. Beautifully written and illustrated, Observing by Hand. Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century offers an intimate and absorbing portrait of science in the making.

Crosbie Smith (chair); John Tresch; Nancy Siraisi


Katharine Park (Harvard University, emerita): Sarton Medal for lifetime scholarly achievement

The winner of the 2016 Sarton Medal is Katharine Park, Emerita Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. Over the course of her distinguished career as a groundbreaking scholar of medieval and early modern science and medicine, Park has dramatically expanded the horizons of the history of science. Her scholarship, set out in dozens of articles and book chapters and in prize-winning monographs and co-authored books, has transformed our understanding of the history of science and has proven vital for research in STS, the visual culture of science, and cultural studies of science and gender. She is beloved as an inspiring and dedicated teacher, colleague, and mentor.park-photo-cropped

Park received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1981 and was elected a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows while a graduate student. She moved from Harvard to a job at Wellesley College, where she taught in the History Department for seventeen years. Her early scholarship focused on the medical profession in Renaissance Florence, the subject of her Ph.D research and her first book, Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence (Princeton University Press, 1985). While the topic was traditional, Park’s approach to it was not. Rather than focus only on the physicians of Florence, she surveyed “the entire world of medical practice” in the wake of the first plague epidemic in 1348. She examined the interactions between different types of healers in Florence; she included social, political, and religious contexts; and she was one of the first historians to use the term “medical marketplace” to describe the diverse approaches to disease and healing available at that time. A stellar piece of scholarship, this book was an early example of a trend towards examining the history of medical knowledge and practice as a story of give-and-take between a vibrant array of healers and patients, rather than as a top-down field led by university-trained physicians. In her later articles on surgical specialists (1998), snake-handlers (1999), the role of gender within the hierarchy of medical practice (1998), Park argues not for a straight line of development, or a narrative of scientific progress, but for attention to the diversity of cultural, intellectual, social, and institutional vectors that shaped science over the longue durée.

While at Wellesley, Park began work on a project on human anatomy and dissection, which would occupy her for the better part of two decades. Her article “The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” which won the Renaissance Quarterly article prize in 1994, dispelled the notion that there was a religious taboo against autopsy and dissection in the Latin Middle Ages. It remains widely cited and taught today. Another article, “The Life of the Corpse” (JHMAS, 1995), demonstrated Park’s talents in comparative history, highlighting differing attitudes towards the dead body and dissection between Italy and Northern Europe. Park also began publishing on two additional areas of scholarship during this period: gender and perceptions of the body, the subject of several articles (e.g. “The Rediscovery of the Clitoris,” 1997), and the pre-modern interest in “wonders,” a topic she worked on together with Lorraine Daston.

The project on wonders came to fruition with the publication of Park and Daston’s Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone Books, 1998). This magisterial volume won the HSS Pfizer Prize in 1999 as well as the Roland H. Bainton Book Prize from the Sixteenth Century Studies Society and Conference, and was translated into Italian in 2000 and German in 2002. To say that Wonders was groundbreaking is to underestimate its impact. Not only did it demonstrate the crucial role that concepts of monstrosity have played in defining the boundaries of nature, it also argued that natural oddities and the ideas about the hidden, or occult, forces of nature that often accompanied them were part and parcel of the study of nature in pre- and early-modern Europe. Wonders helped intensify the pushback against the idea of a seventeenth-century “Scientific Revolution” that banished such “unscientific” notions. As she has further demonstrated in her essay “The Meanings of Natural Diversity: Marco Polo on the ‘Division’ of the World” (1997), the valences and affects of diversity and difference have often been rendered legible in relation to particular intersections of political, economic, and scientific imaginaries—in the Middle Ages, certainly, but in later periods, as well. The influence of Park and Daston’s broad view of the history of science is apparent in their co-edited volume The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science, published in 2006 after nearly a decade of meticulous work.

In 1997, Park moved to Harvard University to assume the Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe chair, a position that was initially split between the History of Science and the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (located solely in the History of Science from 2003). There, she continued her work on gender and the body, writing articles on personifications of nature, allegories, childbirth, and a critique of the “one-sex” body. Her work on gender, autopsy, and dissection culminated in the publication of Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (Zone Books, 2006), awarded the HSS Rossiter Prize in 2007, the William Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine in 2009, and translated into French in 2009. Many scholars had noted that the cadaver in the frontispiece of Vesalius’s Fabrica is female, but none had understood its significance until Park established that the practice of human dissection, long held to be emblematic of the turn toward scientific proof that characterized the early modern period in Europe, actually grew out of medieval practices of embalming, of forensic autopsies, and of gynecological surgeries. Furthermore, Park demonstrated conclusively that women subjects and actors were at the heart of these medieval practices, and that they were attentive to questions of proof and causality.

Since her retirement from Harvard in 2015, Park has continued her project of re-thinking entrenched narratives of pre-modern science in a new book (with Ahmed Ragab) surveying the history of medieval science and medicine in the Arabic, Latin, and European vernacular traditions.

Park’s influence extends far beyond her own research areas. Scholars of the modern biological sciences have adapted many of her key insights about monsters and non-conforming bodies to understand teratological discourse and epidemiology, as well as the biomedical history of concepts of deformity and disability. Literary scholars have drawn on her work to understand Shakespeare, science fiction, and the development of the Gothic novel. Film scholars have pointed to her theorization of monstrosity in relation to affect and the broader social contexts of meaning as crucial for understanding the significance of horror films. Art historians have turned to her work on allegorical emblems and anatomical diagrams to understand contemporary bioart. Cultural theorists of biotechnology and digital culture have shown the extent to which new and emerging technological innovations threaten certain modern conceptions of the human—provoking ideas of the “posthuman”—by pointing to Park’s arguments.

Beyond her scholarship, Park is known as a generous colleague, a dedicated teacher and mentor, and a strong advocate for women scholars. She has been an active member of the HSS Women’s Caucus since its foundation. At Harvard, she chaired the Committee on Degrees in Women’s Studies from 1998-2003, and she taught courses at the Graduate Consortium for Women’s Studies, which was then housed at Radcliffe. In a time in which being a woman professor at Harvard was not always easy, she acted as an unofficial mentor and advisor to junior professors. She was beloved as the Director of Graduate Studies in the History of Science Department during the last years before her retirement. Park also has taken on broader administrative duties, serving as the Lehman Visiting Professor and Acting Director of the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies, in 2000-1. She has been active in the HSS, as a member of Council (1991-93; 2002-04), the Committee on Research and the Profession (1991-93), the Nominating Committee (1991, 1997), and the Pfizer Prize Committee (2010-13), which she chaired in 2013. She has held elected positions in other academic societies, most notably the Renaissance Society of America and the American Association for the History of Medicine. In addition to her book prizes, Park has been awarded numerous prestigious national fellowships and prizes, including grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Radcliffe Institute, NEH, and ACLS, and she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.

Katharine Park is one of the giants of our field. We are delighted to see her recognized with the Sarton Medal, an honor she richly deserves.

Joan Cadden; Paula Findlen; Colin Milburn; Alisha Rankin; Elly R. Truitt