The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) community extends its gratitude to Professor Lorraine Daston, who after 24 years has retired as director of Department II. Daston turned Department II into a hallmark in the history of science. As one of the leading historians of science worldwide she laid foundations in her research that made visible the historical changeability of key scientific terminologies such as objectivity, reason, and rationality, from the early modern period to the time of the Cold War.
Lorraine Daston has published on a wide range of topics in the history of science, from miracles, monsters, and scientific virtues in early modern natural science to the history of probability theory, from the moral authority of nature to the history of scientific observation. Her recent work deals with the memory of science and with the connection between science and modernity.
As Director of Department II she contributed significantly to the international visibility of the MPIWG. Central to her department's research was the format of the working group, which brought together anywhere from six to 18 scholars of diverse fields of expertise to produce coherent and broad-ranging explorations of novel but fundamental topics. These groups yielded a total of 22 collective volumes published by leading academic presses or as special issues of prominent journals.
A sought-after commentator on current developments in the sciences, Daston received the 2012 Sarton Medal for Scholarly Achievement—the highest honor of the American History of Science Society—and the Dan David Prize in 2018, among many other awards and honors. She is a professor at the University of Chicago, a permanent fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin, and a member of major scientific academies and associations.
Lorraine Daston's retirement from the Institute was marked with a festive event on June 21, 2019 and a book, "Surprise: 107 Variations on the Unexpected," presented to her by department scholars and alumni. She remains at the MPIWG as Director emerita.