2007 Prize Winners


Sarton Medal (Martin Rudwick)

The Sarton Medal is the highest award of the History of Science Society, given annually in recognition of a lifetime of scholarly achievement.  It is a personal pleasure and a great honor to introduce Martin Rudwick as the Sarton medalist for 2007. 

Martin Rudwick achieved pre-eminence in history of science after a distinguished early career in paleontology.  Educated at Trinity College Cambridge, he graduated with first class honors in the Natural Sciences Tripos and wrote his dissertation on brachiopods, a group now nearly extinct but of vital importance in the fossil record.  An interest in reconstructing the functional evolution of these unusual organisms led to a fascination with the history and philosophy of science, and he eventually moved to that department in Cambridge, the first of a series of distinguished posts held in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Israel, France, and the United States.  In 1998 he returned to England, having retired from the University of California at San Diego as professor emeritus of history, and he is affiliated once again with the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge.  There can be no question that Martin has been the most influential historian of the earth sciences in the past fifty years.  He has received the History of Geology award of the Geological Society of America (1987), the Friedman Medal of the Geological Society of London (1988), and the Founder’s Medal of the Society for the History of Natural History (1988). 

Like many readers, I first encountered Martin’s work through The Meaning of Fossils (Macdonald and American Elsevier, 1972), which was based on his celebrated undergraduate lectures at Cambridge.  This beautifully written book, which explores the period from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century, set a fresh agenda for a whole generation of historians of science, showing how scientific knowledge could be understood in terms of wider philosophies of nature and changing canons of practice.  As John Herschel said of Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, it is ‘one of those productions which work a complete revolution in their subject by altering entirely the point of view in which it must henceforward be contemplated’.  It certainly transformed my own historical understanding.

In this and many subsequent works, Martin has led the way in demonstrating that classification, order, and display cannot be dismissed as trivial aspects of the making of knowledge, but are important ways of understanding the natural world.  His articles (recently collected by Ashgate in two volumes) on Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Georges Cuvier and other key figures have been staples of student reading lists, combining analytical insight with readable style.  He has been one of the pioneers in promoting study of the visual aspects of science, notably through his widely-read essay of 1976 in History of Science, and Scenes from Deep Time (University of Chicago Press, 1992), which introduced readers to a remarkable array of nineteenth-century depictions of ancient life.  He has creatively employed visual modes of exposition throughout his work, using analytical diagrams to sum up complex controversies and forms of social relations.

This interest in visual modes of exposition is characteristic of a broader effort to find new tools for understanding past forms of life.  Martin has encouraged historians to engage with the sociology and anthropology of science, and has applied this in innovative ways within his own writings.  In 1999 the Society for Social Studies of Science awarded him the Bernal Prize.  His best known book, The Great Devonian Controversy (University of Chicago Press, 1985), is a classic of our field, demonstrating that a nuanced account of the past can shed light on the general processes of science.  As the late Stephen Jay Gould said, ‘After a superficial first glance, most readers of good will and broad knowledge might dismiss [this book] as being too much about too little. They would be making one of the biggest mistakes in their intellectual lives.'  

In an era when scholarly research is too often constrained by national and linguistic boundaries, Martin has been ecumenical in his approach.  He has taught in three countries and publishes regularly in French as well as English.  Through his encouragement of scholars in different countries, he has been instrumental in developing a cosmopolitan perspective among geologists and historians. 

Martin’s latest 840 page book, Bursting the Limits of Time (University of Chicago Press, 2005) is a major European-wide study of the leading practitioners of natural history in the decades around 1800.  Its equally imposing sequel, Worlds before Adam, is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2008.   These magnificent volumes grew out the 1996 Tarner Lectures, and are notable for their sensitive exploration of figures who had been dismissed in histories of secular progress as religious obscurantists.  Together, they make a compelling case that the development of a historical vision of the earth is as significant a transformation in human thought as those associated with relativity physics or Darwinian evolution.

Martin Rudwick has shaped the way we see some of the most widely discussed episodes in history of science, and has consistently set standards for analytical rigor, innovation, and depth of research.  His writings have been at the forefront of our field for nearly four decades, and are models of appropriate use of visual arguments and engaging prose.  It is in recognition of his remarkable achievement that the History of Science Society has named him as the 2007 Sarton Medalist.

– James Secord

Martin Rudwick's acceptance speech

Pfizer Prize (David Kaiser)

By unanimous vote of the committee, the Pfizer Prize for 2007 is awarded to David Kaiser for his book, Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005.  Starting with drawings that seem to be “without history” and excavating their historical trail with consummate skill, Kaiser recounts the origin, reception, successive modifications, and pedagogical career of a fundamental visual technique of modern physics.  Informed by deep archival research and extensive interviews with living participants, his account moves from lab to lab, concentrating on scientific networks in the United States, but also exploring their intersection with British, Japanese, and Soviet physics programs.  He shows how his protagonists read these representations in distinctive ways in different contexts, and how various theorists played with the diagrams, using them just as they might use other material tools, modulating them and re-imagining them as they and the ideas they represented were transmitted across the scientific landscape.  In the process, we learn much about the dynamics of research groups, the changing (and contested) heuristic functions of images and diagrams, the role of training and pedagogy in the creation of new knowledge, and the ways in which tacit knowledge is communicated.  With sly humor and deft writing, Kaiser integrates the physicists’ own playful descriptions, of “nuclear democracy” in which each particle deserved “equal treatment under the law,” of  “field theorists and house theorists,” of a “textbook gap” unfolding along with a “missile gap,” and of nuclear “fundamentalists.”  At no point in this study are his historical actors operating in an institutional, social, or political void.  They are tangled up in teaching, recruitment, social networks, politics, and history, even as they calculate and doodle and sometimes theorize, and as they debate whether the lines in their diagrammatic systems were, as Kaiser puts it, “visually affiliated with reality.”  Kaiser here helps us to rethink the historical role of the textbook and pedagogy in the history of science.  By placing teaching and learning at the center of mid-century physics, he erases easy distinctions between them and produces remarkable insights into the complex exchange of scientific ideas.  His analysis of Feynman diagrams as paper tools provides a spirited entrée into the scientific lives of physicists in the post-war period ­--­ lives not just of disembodied thought, but also of the daily struggle to master difficult calculations with the assistance of whatever tools one might devise, modify, or re-deploy.  David Kaiser reveals this dynamic world of post-war physics in a skillfully constructed and gracefully written narrative that succeeds in communicating difficult science to a broad audience.

– Sally Gregory Kohlstedt
– M. Susan Lindee
– Alan Rocke (chair)

Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize (Matt Ridley )

Janet Browne, Roger H. Stuewer, and Charlotte M. Porter (chair) comprised the Davis Prize Committee. Having summered with a tall stack of books, the committee selected the 2007 Davis Prize winner, Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Codeby Matt Ridley (Atlas Books, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006). Crick, the renowned colleague of James Watson, died in 2004. For this lively biography of a leader in twentieth-century molecular biology, Ridley relied on Crick’s papers at the Wellcome Trust Library and interviews with family, friends, and peers. The resulting biography weaves charismatic personalities and Nobel Prize-winning achievement into a dynamic account. Ridley, a supple writer, describes Crick’s remarkable British postwar saltation from the Royal Navy to genetics as a comprehensive reeducation “in his spare time.” Crick, often the life of the late-night party, enjoyed the stretch of conversation. In late spring of 1953, he previewed to his 12-year-ole son, Michael, that Watson and he considered DNA to be a code involving four units called A, T, G, and C. The reader also meets Crick’s delightful wife, the artistic Odile Speed, who drew the spiral image of DNA that has become a scientific icon. Ridley, at his best with Crick and his family and friends, treats with sensitivity Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to the structure of DNA, Watson’s bestseller, The Double Helix, and Crick’s late-life interests in the science of consciousness.

Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize (Katharine Park)

Katharine Park’s Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection is an outstanding demonstration of the fundamental insights that consideration of gender brings to the history of science. The womb, Park shows, became the privileged object of dissection in medical images and texts in the 15th and 16th century due to both its significance for generation and the challenges posed by its anatomical complexity. Whereas depictions of male anatomy focused on the outside of the body, the female figure came to illustrate internal anatomy in general. Far from being an aberration, then, women’s bodies and their secrets became the paradigm for the secrets of life, and were crucial for the development of anatomical knowledge from the thirteenth century until Andreas Vesalius’s On the Fabric of the Human Body of 1543. In this exciting challenge to existing historiography, Park traces the role of women and the female body through several Italian case studies: a religious visionary, a lactating virgin, Florentine matrons, and the executed criminal of Vesalius’s famous frontispiece. While leading her readers into discourses and practices quite remote from contemporary experience, Park challenges well-established opinions about religious prohibitions against dissection, the transgressive nature of physician’s desire to understand women’s secrets, the misogynous motivation of Renaissance doctors’s critique of vernacular midwives’s knowledge, and the “one-sex” model of the human body previously assumed to characterize anatomical understanding from Galen to the Enlightenment. Katharine Park does all of this in a book that is richly documented, lucidly argued, soberly provocative, and both fittingly and beautifully illustrated.

– Fernando Vidal (Chair)
– Judith Johns Schloegel
– Ida Stamhuis

Derek Price/Rod Webster Prize (Thomas L. Hankins)

The 2007 Price/Webster Prize Committee is delighted to unanimously award this year's prize to Thomas L. Hankins, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, for his article “A ‘Large and Graceful Sinuosity’: John Herschel's Graphical Method,” (published Isis December 2006)

Hankins’ essay elegantly explores John Herschel’s use of, and ideas about, the graph as an analogue device for probability calculations, the ways in which graphs entered into disparate contemporary controversies, and their ultimate acceptance by practicing scientists attracted by graphs’ practical value for dealing with complex data.

Drawing on Herschel's letters as well as published sources, Hankins shows that a graph was dependent on observational data, circumvented latent random errors, and invited judgment about laws of nature (e.g. the orbits of double stars) with moral certainty. Against the backdrop of an explosion of numerical data in this period, graphs presented a powerful method of management by means of visualization – management not just of data, but also of the debates over the epistemology or metaphysics of inductive science.  “A ‘Large and Graceful Sinuosity’” is an extraordinarily rich and lucid account of the interrelationships among the many ways of making visible the invisible laws of nature, numerical data, probability calculation, and graphs in the 19th century and of the reasons why graphs came to be accepted by natural philosophers despite their often fierce disagreements on other issues.

– Diane Paul (chair)
– Sachiko Kusukawa
– Stuart W. Leslie

Nathan Reingold Prize (Hyung Wook Park)

The Nathan Reingold Prize is awarded this year to Hyung Wook Park of the University of Minnesota for his essay "`The Thin Rats Bury the Fat Rats': Animal Husbandry, Caloric Restriction, and the Making of a Cross-Disciplinary Research Project."

In an age of overeating and declining life expectancy, Park's analysis of the American scientist Clive Maine McCay's research on nutrition and longevity is as interesting as it is timely.  McCay began his studies in the 1920s at Yale on fish, and, as Park emphasizes throughout this impressively researched essay, animals, not humans, remained the primary focus of McCay's work.  Park places McCay's science squarely within the framework of agricultural research and its institutions, familiar sites to historians interested in the intermixing of theory and practice. Accordingly, when McCay moved to Cornell in 1927, his laboratory studies of caloric restricted diets for farm animals were embraced as both basic research into nutrition and as useful sources of information for farmers keen on milk production or chicken "livability."  But it was McCay's "discovery," made over a number of years and in numerous experiments during the early 1930s, that underfed rats lived considerably longer than their fatter counterparts which drew the attention of other scientists and outside funding.  The "expansion" of McCay's research, as Park nicely describes it, was underwritten by the Rockefeller Foundation, and here, then, is another example of Warren Weaver's key role in promoting cross-disciplinary research.  Rockfeller support allowed McCay to raise more thin, old rats.  These non-standardized, laboratory animals, Park argues, functioned as "boundary objects," scientific artifacts that facilitated communication and cooperation among diverse groups of researchers.  By the 1940s, long-lived rats had become central objects of investigation in the new science of aging.  Park has thus skillfully drawn together two hitherto unconnected fields -- animal husbandry and gerontology -- by tracing McCay's scientific career.  So "eat less, live longer" turns out to be more than useful advice; it's basic science, too.

– Paul Lucier (Chair)
– Alain Touwaide
– Marcos Cueto

Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize (Joe Cain)

The Hazen Prize Committee of the History of Science Society is proud to award the Prize to Professor Joe Cain, Senior Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Biology in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London.

For many years Cain has been actively advancing history of science education in the History of Science Society and in the British Society for the History of Science. Before that he was an associate editor for the U.S. National Science Teachers Association, where he co-authored projects which served as models for embedding the history and philosophy of science in the U.S. secondary curriculum. During his tenure there he won the Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Educational Journalism, awarded by the Educational Press Association of America. He has been honored by his colleagues at UCL with a Faculty Teaching Award.

Cain has been active in his own teaching, in the assessment of teaching and learning in the history of science at his own institution, and in the creation of educational standards for history and philosophy of science across the United Kingdom. He's been a leader in the creation of Web-based resources for teaching the history of science at both the undergraduate and secondary levels. He has produced numerous and influential publications on history of science pedagogy, and has spoken widely on teaching and learning in the history of science.

Colleagues and students emphasize Cain’s commitment to student-centered learning and to making teachers accountable for well-defined and consistent standards of instruction. Cain’s colleagues also note his commitment to the career development of his own students as teachers, and his passion for innovation in both pedagogical research and practice. They conclude: “we do not know of anyone else in the field who has advanced and consolidated educational practices in so many ways."

We are proud to honor his contributions to the history of science.

– Mott Greene
– Jackie Duffin
– Kathy Cooke


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