Lorraine Daston honored for research on the history of science

Lorraine Daston, a visiting professor in UChicago’s John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought and the Department of History, has been awarded the Dan David Prize for her achievements in the research of the history of science.

The annual award, which includes a $1 million prize, recognizes scholars for innovative and interdisciplinary research in technological, scientific, social or cultural fields covering the past, present and future. Daston said she was in “disbelief but delighted beyond measure” to be recognized.

“It is grand that the history of science, always a small, interstitial discipline lodged between the natural and social sciences and the humanities, has been recognized for its essential contributions to the understanding of the past,” Daston said.

Daston arrived at UChicago in 1992 and said she fell in love with the “intellectual earnestness” of the University, as well as the unique nature of the Committee on Social Thought, to which she returns to teach each year. Since 1995, she has directed the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and she now divides her time between Berlin and Chicago. She has written on a wide range of topics in the history of science, including the history of probability and statistics, wonders in early-modern science, and the history of scientific objectivity.

Robert B. Pippin, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Philosophy and the College, commended Daston, calling her “one of the most influential and widely respected historians in the world today.”

“Professor Daston is the embodiment of the interdisciplinarity that the Committee and indeed the University have tried to foster,” Pippin said. “Her role in introducing our graduate students to the various relations between the sciences and the humanities has been absolutely indispensable, and her generosity with students is legendary.”

Daston said she is looking forward to putting the prize toward “many happy hours in various dusty archives” as she continues her research. Laureates also donate 10 percent of their prize to postgraduates in their respective field to foster a new generation of scholars. Daston will share her prize with a student at MIT and another at the University of Cambridge.

The Dan David Prize is endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. Past winners have included UChicago Prof. James Heckman, novelist Margaret Atwood and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.