My work sits at the intersection of the history of science, the history of capitalism, and American history. My current project began as an investigation into the life insurance industry as an over-looked site for scientific work in the United States---Corporate science did not just happen in big industrial firms, I intended to show. The findings of that study became my dissertation, The Science of Difference: Designing Tools for Discrimination in the American Life Insurance Industry
(2009). For the last few years I have been revising and refocusing that early work to focus on the way that insurers' statistical infrastructure influenced and shaped the larger patchwork of systems in the United States designed to gather data about individuals and make generalizations from that data. I will spend my time at the Max Planck finishing this project.
I belong to the "Historicizing Big Data" working group. In 2010 I participated in one of the "Machines of Memory" working group's conferences. That experience convinced me that a history of "statistical infrastructure" could be written and would be useful as a way to bring together often separated histories of computing, statistical thinking, and governance.
I have an undergraduate degree in computational mathematics and a Ph.D. in the history of science from Princeton University. Since 2009 I have been teaching US history at Colgate University in upstate New York, where I will return following my year of leave at the MPIWG.