Laureates 2018

2018 Past - History of Science

Prof. Lorraine Daston

Prof. Lorraine DastonMax Planck Institute for the History of Science
Berlin, Germany

Prof. Lorraine Daston is an American historian of science, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), in Berlin, Germany. She serves as visiting professor for the Committee on Social Thought, at the University of Chicago.

Prof. Daston’s work pursues a form of historical epistemology that focuses on basic categories of scientific rationality and their surprising changes over time and place. Her groundbreaking research on the “Ideals and Practices of Rationality”, has termed the basic categories of scientific investigation and accomplishment. Her meticulous historical studies of “reason,” “proof,” “fact,” “observation,” “scientific object,” “data”, and even “objectivity” itself, masterfully demonstrate how such seemingly universal concepts have changed dramatically since the seventeenth century.

She has published extensively on the history of probability theory, objectivity and scientific observation. Daston’s pursuit of the cultural history of rationality began with the leading role she played as one of the editors of the big project on The Probabilistic Revolution (2 volumes, 1987). Her first book, Classical Probability in the Enlightenment, which won her widespread international praise followed quickly. That trajectory continued with Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750, co-authored with Katharine Park. Her big 2007 book with Peter Galison, Objectivity, became one of the most discussed and reviewed works in the history of science, for its bold claims about dramatic changes in meaning that the concept of objectivity underwent during four historical epochs from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. Prof. Daston has organized a series of Working Group volumes that address fundamental concepts and practices in the sciences, from observation to formal theories of rationality.

Among her many honors, she received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Princeton University in 2013, and the Sarton Medal for lifetime scholarly achievement from the History of Science Society in 2012. She was awarded the Pfizer Prize by the History of Science Society both in 1989 and 1999. She was inducted into the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2010.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, Paris, and is a Corresponding Member of the British Academy. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.