Dan Bouk

Visiting Scholar

Dan Bouk has an undergraduate degree in computational mathematics and a PhD in the history of science from Princeton University. Since 2009 he has been teaching US History at Colgate University in upstate New York, where he is to return following a year of leave at the MPIWG.

Dan’s work sits at the intersection of the history of science, the history of capitalism, and American history. His current project began as an investigation into the life insurance industry as an over-looked site for scientific work in the United States—he intended to show corporate science did not just happen in big industrial firms. The findings of this study became his dissertation, “The Science of Difference: Designing Tools for Discrimination in the American Life Insurance Industry” (2009).

In recent years Dan has 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. He has spent his time at the MPIWG finishing this project.

Dan belongs to the Working Group "Historicizing Big Data." In 2010 he participated in one of the group’s "Machines of Memory" conferences, an experience that convinced him 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.


Survey Blanks, Economized Reproduction, and the Gendered Work of Population


How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Statistical Individual in the United States, 1873–1935


Selected Publications

Bouk, D. (2008). Knowledge of Leviathan: Charles W. Morgan Anatomizes His Whale.


Bouk, D. (2012). Tocqueville's Ghost.


Bouk, D. (2011). The Science of Difference: Designing Tools for Discrimination in the American Life Insurance Industry, 1830-1930.