Lorraine Daston

Department II
Ph.D., Professor, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
since 15. Juli 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. (2016). History of science without 'Structure'. In R. J. Richards, & L. Daston (Eds.), Kuhn's structure of scientific revolutions at fifty: reflections on a science classic (pp. 115-132). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Daston, L. (2016). Die Zukunft der GDNÄ - die GDNÄ der Zukunft. In A. Schanbacher, & E.-M. Neher (Eds.), Menschen und Ideen: die Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte 1822 - 2016 (pp. 11-13). Göttingen: Wallstein.


Daston, L. (2016). Cloud physiognomy. Representations, 135(1), 45-71. View


Daston, L. (2016). Authenticity, autopsia, and Theodor Mommsen’s Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. In A. Blair, & A.-S. Goeing (Eds.), For the sake of learning: essays in honor of Anthony Grafton, vol. 2 (pp. 955-973). Leiden: Brill. View


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.


Daston, L. (2014). The naturalistic fallacy is modern. Isis, 105(3), 579-587. View


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.


Daston, L. (2012). The sciences of the archive. Osiris, 27(1), 156-187.


Daston, L. (2008). On scientific observation. Isis, 99(1), 97-110.

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"
April 2014
University of Santa Barbara
"The Way We Think Now: A Short History of Rules"
April/May 2014
(3 lectures) "Rules. A Short History of What We Live By", Princeton University
May 2014
All at Once and Completely Changed: Revelation in Henry James' The Golden Bowl, University of Chicago
June 2013
Einstein Forum, Potsdam
"The Paradoxes of Self-Interest"
November 2011
London School of Economics
"Norms and Nature"
June 2012
Royal Society of London
"Weather Watching and Table Reading in the Early Modern Royal Society and Académie Royale des Sciences"
March 2013
Coutauld Institute London
"The Synoptic Image in Early Modern Europe"
January 2013
Humanitas Lecture, Oxford University
"Nature's Revenge: A History of Risk, Responsibility, and Reasonableness"
December 2013
University of Chicago
"One Word Worth a Thousand Images"
April 2011
University of California at Berkeley
"The Rule of Rules: From Enlightenment Reason to Cold War Rationality"
December 2012
University of Chicago
"History of Science without Structure"
April 2012
Indiana University at Bloomington
"The Science of Clouds"
January 2010
Aarhus University
"Nature's Revenge"
January 2012
Ecole normale supérieure, Paris
"Objectivité et impartialité"
October 2012
Royal Dutch Institute, Rome
"Epistemic Virtues in the Humanities: Objectivity versus Impartiality"
April 2010
University of Chicago
"Moral and Natural Orders"
September 2011
Deutscher Philosophischer Kongress, Munich
"Vernunft und Rationalität"
Februar 2010
Forschungszentrum Gotha
"Wissenschaftliche Beobachtung als Lebensform"
November 2012
Columbia University
"Rules Rule: From Enlightenment Reason to Cold War Rationality"
Teaching activities
University of ChicagoSeminar: "Origin Stories: Religion and Science Narrate the World"
University of ChicagoSeminar: "Observation: A History of the Sciences, the Senses, and the Self"
University of ChicagoSeminar: "Against the Gods: Comparative Perspectives on Human Resistance to the Higher Powers"
University of ChicagoSeminar: "Naturalism as a Way of Life"
University of ChicagoSeminar: "History's Histories"


Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 
Boltzmannstraße 22 
14195 Berlin 

+49 30 22 667 131
+49 30 22 667 293

Curriculum Vitae