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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston
Algorithms Before Computers: Patterns, Recipes, and Rules
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 7:00pm
Kane Hall 210

There are no cultures without rules. Rules—in the form of everything from traffic regulations to computer algorithms—structure almost every human interaction. These are rigid, precise, explicit rules that minimize interpretation. But the long history of rules before the modern era reveals an alternative and more supple kind of rule: the rule as pattern or paradigm, which requires the exercise of judgment, even in mathematics. How did we get from there to here, and what are the implications of this transformation for the way we live now?

Lorraine Daston is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and Visiting Professor of Social Thought and History at the University of Chicago. A widely respected historian of science, Daston has published on 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.

Her recent books include How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality (co-editor, 2014), Histories of Scientific Observation (co-editor, 2011), and Objectivity (with Peter Galison, 2010). Her current projects include the relationship between moral and natural orders and the emergence of Big Science and Big Humanities in the context of nineteenth-century archives.

Daston is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and 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 doctorate of humane letters from Princeton University. She earned a BA and PhD in the history of science from Harvard University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

The Simpson Center also hosts an informal public colloquium with Daston, "Big Science and Big Humanities: Tales from the 19th-Century Archives," at 1:30 pm, Thursday, April 20, in Communications 202.

Co-sponsored by the graduate Certificate in Science, Technology & Society Studies, the UW Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and the Puget Sound Association of Phi Beta Kappa.