Lorraine Daston, Ph.D.


Visiting Professor, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

Residence: since July 15, 1995


Lorraine Daston has published on a wide range of topics in the history of science, including the history of probability and statistics, wonders in early modern science, the emergence of the scientific fact, scientific models, objects of scientific inquiry, the moral authority of nature, and the history of scientific objectivity. Recent books include (with Paul Erikson et al.) How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold war Rationality (2014)  and (co-edited with Elizabeth Lunbeck), Histories of Scientific Observation (2011), both products of MPIWG Working Groups.

Her current projects include a history of rules, based on her 2014 Lawrence Stone Lectures at Princeton University, the emergence of Big Science and Big Humanities in the context of nineteenth-century archives, and the relationship between moral and natural orders.

She is the recipient of the Pfizer Prize and Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the Schelling Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the Lichtenberg Medal of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, the Luhmann Prize of the University of Bielefeld, and an honorary dotorate of humane letters from Princeton University. In addition to directing Department II of the MPIWG, she is a regular Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Selected publications

  • Daston, L. (2015). Epistemic images. In A. Payne (Ed.), Vision and its instruments: art, science, and technology in early modern Europe (pp. 13-35). University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press. More
  • Daston, L. (2014). The naturalistic fallacy is modern. Isis, 105(3), 579-587. More http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/678173
  • Erickson, P., Klein, J. L., Daston, L., Lemov, R., Sturm, T., & Gordin, M. D. (2013). How reason almost lost its mind: the strange career of Cold War rationality. Chicago [u.a.]: The University of Chicago Press. More Book page
  • Daston, L. (2012). The sciences of the archive. Osiris, 27(1), 156-187. More
  • Daston, L. (2008). On scientific observation. Isis, 99(1), 97-110. More

Talks and presentations

April 2015 Keynote lecture at conference "Description across the Disciplines", Columbia University – "The Evolution of Clouds"
March 2015 Straker Lecture, University of British Columbia – "Which Self? The Rationalities of Self Interest"
March 2015 Keynote lecture at conference "The Total Archive", University of Cambridge – "The Immortal Archive of the Nineteenth Century"
January 2015 Keynote lecture at conference "Breaking Rules", University of Leiden – "Rules, Models, Paradigms: Before Rules Became Rigid"
October 2014 Martin Buber Lecture, Israel Academy of Sciences – "Before the Two Cultures: Big Science and Big Humanities in the Nineteenth Century"


Teaching activities

2015 University of Chicago – Seminar: "Origin Stories: Religion and Science Narrate the World"
2014 University of Chicago – Seminar: "Observation: A History of the Sciences, the Senses, and the Self"
2013 University of Chicago – Seminar: "Against the Gods: Comparative Perspectives on Human Resistance to the Higher Powers"
2012 University of Chicago – Seminar: "Naturalism as a Way of Life"
2011 University of Chicago – Seminar: "History's Histories"