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Lorraine Daston

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Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston (born June 9, 1951, East Lansing, Michigan)[1] is an American historian of science. Executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, and visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, she is considered an authority on Early Modern European scientific and intellectual history. In 1993, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Scholarly activities

Daston divides her year between a nine-month period in Berlin, and a three-month period in Chicago, where she usually teaches a seminar and assists doctoral students. Her Chicago seminars usually take a textualist approach to philosophical, literary, and historical works; In a research capacity at MPIWG she heads the "Ideals and Practices of Rationality" working group, and has concentrated recently on the late-Enlightenment philosophical conceptualization of reason, and the subsequent rise of a rationality based in algorithms and rules. [1] A frequent subject of past inquiry has been the naturalistic fallacy in philosophy and literature, or "the almost irresistible temptation to attempt to extract moral norms from the world of nature." [2]

Daston was appointed the inaugural Humanitas Professor in the History of Ideas at University of Oxford for 2013. She has also held Oxford's Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professorship in Intellectual History. In 2002, she delivered two Tanner Lectures at Harvard University, in which she traced theoretical conceptions of nature in several literary and philosophical works.[3]

A number of her scholarly articles have been published in the journal of humanistic criticism Critical Inquiry. She also holds a seat on that journal's editorial board, and a recent feature on Daston can be seen on the Critical Inquiry website.[4]

Daston was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2010. She is married to the German psychologist and social scientist Gerd Gigerenzer.

Recent publications and lectures

  • Classical Probability and the Enlightenment (1988)
  • "The Ideal and Reality of the Republic of Letters in the Enlightenment" (1993)
  • Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150 - 1750 (with Katharine Park, 1998)
  • "Objectivity and the Escape from Perspective" (1999)
  • Biographies of Scientific Objects (co-editor, 2000)
  • Eine kurze Geschichte der wissenschaftlichen Aufmerksamkeit (2001)
  • Wunder, Beweise und Tatsachen: zur Geschichte der Rationalität (2001)
  • "The Morality of Natural Orders: The Power of Medea" and "Nature's Customs versus Nature's Laws" (Tanner Lectures at Harvard University, 2002)
  • The Moral Authority of Nature (co-editor, 2003)
  • "The Disciplines of Attention," in David E. Wellbery, ed., A New History of German Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press Reference Library, 2005)
  • "Condorcet and the Meaning of Enlightenment" (Lecture at McGill University, 2006)
  • Objectivity (with Peter Galison, Boston: Zone Books, 2007)
  • Natural Law and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Europe (co-editor, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008)
  • "Why Does Nature Have Moral Authority Even if it Shouldn't?" (Video of Lecture at College de France, 2009)
  • "Rules Rule: How Enlightenment Reason Became Cold War Rationality" (Video of Lecture at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 2010)


  1. ^ "The Observer" by Uta DEFFKE

External links

  • Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (MPIWG)
  • Interview with Lorraine Daston ("How To Think About Science and Philosophy" series by CBC Radio, Canada, 52 min, 24 MB)
  • Interview with Prof. Dr. Lorraine Daston (, 8 min)
  • Lorraine Daston at Library of Congress Authorities — with catalog records
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