profile picture of Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston

Emeritus Scientific Member (Since 1995)

PhD, Professor, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago/MPIWG Director 1995–2019

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 Gegen die Natur (2018; English edition Against Nature, 2019) as well as Science in the Archives (2017) and (with Paul Erikson et al.) How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality (2014), the latter two both products of MPIWG Working Groups. 

Her current projects include a history of rules, the meaning of modernity in the history of science, international governance in science since the late nineteenth century, 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 honorary doctorates from Princeton University and the Hebrew University. In 2018 she was awarded the Dan David Prize in the History of Science. 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.

Current Projects

No current projects were found for this scholar.

Completed Projects

Between the Natural and the Human Sciences
Cold War Rationality
Collective Observation
History of Scientific Objectivity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
History of Scientific Objects
Histories of Scientific Observation
How Reason Became Rationality
Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative
Knowledge and Belief
Natural Law and Laws of Nature
Rules: A Short History of What We Live By
Science Goes to the Archives
Science in Circulation
Science and Modernity
Art and Science
History of Scientific Observation
The Moral Authority of Nature
Sciences of the Archive
The Scientific Personae

Selected Publications

Daston, Lorraine (2017). “The History of Science and the History of Knowledge.” KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 1 (1): 131–154.

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Daston, Lorraine (2016). “History of science without ‘Structure.’” In Kuhn’s “Structure of scientific revolutions” at fifty : reflections on a science classic, ed. R. J. Richards and L. Daston, 115–132. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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Daston, Lorraine (2016). “Cloud physiognomy.” Representations 135 (1): 45–71.

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Daston, Lorraine (2016). “Authenticity, autopsia, and Theodor Mommsen’s Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.” In For the sake of learning : essays in honor of Anthony Grafton. Vol. 2, ed. A. Blair and A.-S. Goeing, 955–973. Leiden: Brill.

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Daston, Lorraine (2016). “When science went modern.” The Hedgehog Review 18 (3).

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Daston, Lorraine (2015). “Epistemic images.” In Vision and its instruments : art, science, and technology in early modern Europe, ed. A. Payne, 13–35. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

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Daston, Lorraine (2014). “The naturalistic fallacy is modern.” Isis 105 (3): 579–587.

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Erickson, Paul, Judy L. Klein, Lorraine Daston, Rebecca Lemov, Thomas Sturm, and Michael D. Gordin (2013). How reason almost lost its mind : the strange career of Cold War rationality. Chicago [u.a.]: The University of Chicago Press.

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Daston, Lorraine (2012). “The sciences of the archive.” Osiris 27 (1): 156–187.

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Daston, Lorraine (2008). “On scientific observation.” Isis 99 (1): 97–110.

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Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

“Unindexable: Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)”

Conference Undead Texts: Grand Narratives in the History of the Human Sciences at Columbia University and MPIWG

“What is the Source of Nature’s Moral Authority?”

Collegium Helveticum, Zürich

“Precision in Paris”

Keynote Lecture, Conference Media of Exactitude in The Humanities, Art, And Sciences at the University of Basel

“Big Calculation and Algorithmic Intelligence”

Lecture at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing

“What Isn’t the History of Knowledge?”

Tel Aviv University

“The Strange Modernity of Modern Science”

University of California at Davis

“Seeing All at Once in Early Modern Science”

Lecture at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo

“The Archive of Science: Classical Philology and Astronomy Plan for the Future, ca. 1850–1900”

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

“The Secret History of Science and Modernity: The History of Science and the History of Religion”

Conference The Engine of Modernity at Columbia University

“Algorithms Before Computers: Patterns, Recipes, and Rules”

Lecture at Simpson Center for the Humanities, University of Washington

“What Does Science Have to Do with Modernity”

Public lecture, CRASSH, University of Cambridge

“The Reinvention of Experience: Francis Bacon Starts All Over Again”

Bard College Berlin

“Imagining the Past: Science and the Modern Mentality”

Page-Barbour Lectures, University of Virginia

“Modernity and the History of Science”

John Hopkins University

“The Evolution of Clouds”

Keynote lecture at conference Description across the Disciplines at Columbia University

“Which Self? The Rationalities of Self Interest”

Straker Lecture, University of British Columbia

“The Immortal Archive of the Nineteenth Century”

Keynote lecture at conference The Total Archive  at the University of Cambridge

“Rules, Models, Paradigms: Before Rules Became Rigid”

Keynote Lecture at Conference "Breaking Rules," University of Leiden

“Origin Stories: Religion and Science Narrate the World”

Seminar at the University of Chicago

“Before the Two Cultures: Big Science and Big Humanities in the Nineteenth Century”

Martin Buber Lecture, Israel Academy of Sciences

“All at Once and Completely Changed: Revelation in Henry James’ The Golden Bowl”

University of Chicago

(Three lectures) “Rules. A Short History of What We Live By”

Princeton University

“The Way We Think Now: A Short History of Rules”

University of Santa Barbara

“Observation: A History of the Sciences, the Senses, and the Self”

Seminar at the University of Chicago

“One Word Worth a Thousand Images”

University of Chicago

“The Paradoxes of Self-Interest”

Einstein Forum, Potsdam

“The Synoptic Image in Early Modern Europe”

Courtauld Institute, London

“Nature’s Revenge: A History of Risk, Responsibility, and Reasonableness”

Humanitas Lecture, Oxford University

“Against the Gods: Comparative Perspectives on Human Resistance to the Higher Powers”

Seminar at the University of Chicago

“History of Science without Structure”

University of Chicago

“Rules Rule: From Enlightenment Reason to Cold War Rationality”

Columbia University

“Epistemic Virtues in the Humanities: Objectivity versus Impartiality”

Royal Dutch Institute, Rome

“Weather Watching and Table Reading in the Early Modern Royal Society and Académie Royale des Sciences”

Royal Society of London

“The Science of Clouds”

Indiana University at Bloomington

“Objectivité et impartialité”

Ecole normale supérieure, Paris

“Naturalism as a Way of Life”

Seminar at the University of Chicago

“Norms and Nature”

London School of Economics

“Vernunft und Rationalität”

Deutscher Philosophischer Kongress, Munich

“The Rule of Rules: From Enlightenment Reason to Cold War Rationality”

University of California at Berkeley

“The History of Scientific Experience in Early Modern Europe”

Rubinstein Lecture at the Queen Mary University of London

“Ideas in Fugue: Passion, Knowledge and Memory in Aby Warburg’s Theory of the Image”

Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

“Epistemische Bilder”

TU Darmstadt

“History’s Histories”

Seminar at the University of Chicago

“Moral and Natural Orders”

University of Chicago

“Wissenschaftliche Beobachtung als Lebensform”

Forschungszentrum Gotha

“Nature’s Revenge”

Aarhus University