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Rivals: How Scientists Learned to Cooperate
by Lorraine Daston
Why is the scientific community so unified?
In the last 350-odd years, the international “scientific community” has come to be the bastion of consensus and concerted action, especially in the face of two global crises: disastrous climate change, and a deadly pandemic. How did “the scientific community” come into existence, and why does it work?
Rivals is an attempt to answer these questions in the form of a brief historical overview, from the late seventeenth to the early twenty-first centuries, through the creation of two enormous projects—the Carte du Ciel, or the great star map, and the International Cloud Atlas, pioneered by the World Meteorological Organization after World War II. These new models of intergovernmental collaboration and global observation networks would later make the mounting evidence of planetary phenomena like climate change possible.
Rivals is published by Columbia Global Reports, a nonprofit publishing imprint from Columbia University that commissions authors to produce short, accessible books that offer new ways of looking at and understanding the major issues of our time.
About the Author
Lorraine Daston is director emerita of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and a permanent fellow at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study. She is the author of several books, including Objectivity, How Reason Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality, Rules: A Short History of What We Live By, and Against Nature. She lives in Berlin. Daston was a Fellow in the Society of Fellows from 1979–1980.
About the Speakers
William Deringer is an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research examines the history of those techniques and technologies of calculation that organize modern economic, financial, and political life. His work ranges widely across time, from early compound-interest tables and changing social relations in the English countryside in the early 1600s, to the place of computer spreadsheets in the culture of Wall Street in the “go-go” 1980s. Deringer’s first book, Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age (Harvard University Press), is a history of how numerical calculations became an authoritative mode of public reasoning. For his second book, Deringer plans to look at the very long history of a single computational problem: present value, the problem of determining what future property ought to be worth today.
Nicholas Lemann is the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism at Columbia University and the Director of Columbia Global Reports, a book publishing venture, and Columbia World Projects, a new institution that implements academic research outside the university. Nicholas Lemann served as Dean of Columbia Journalism School from 2003-13. Lemann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Widely published, he is the author of six books, including "Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream" (2019); "Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War"; "The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy"; and "The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America." He is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and The American Academy of Political & Social Science.
Alma Steingart is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University. She researches the interplay between politics and mathematical rationalities. Steingart’s second book manuscript, “Accountable Democracy: Mathematical Reasoning and Representative Democracy in America, 1920 to Now,” examines how mathematical thought and computing technologies have impacted electoral politics in the United States in the twentieth century. In Pure Abstraction: Mathematical Thought and High Modernism (University of Chicago Press), Steingart excavates the influence of axiomatic reasoning on mid-century American intellectual thought, from the natural and social sciences to literary criticism and modern design. Professor Steingart was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows and a predoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.
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