Electronic Newsletter, 2010

Notes from the Chair

This should be my last column from the heights of this office, as I soon complete two two-year terms as chair of FHHS, and an election will be held at our upcoming meeting in Montreal. I will briefly mention the business at hand, and then close with some more general remarks that, I hope, are appropriate for the occasion.

The Forum’s theme this year is apparently economics, and though this is actually coincidence, we gladly take credit for riding any wave of current interest. In fact, we have for several years been asking Mary Morgan to give the FHHS Distinguished Lecture, and this year just happened to work out for her. Our sponsored session likewise just happens to concentrate on economic problems. In both cases, as in all of our work, interdisciplinary research and critical historical assessment provide both method and goal. That may be why I never tire of the Forum and its work.

At our Saturday-noon business meeting, preceding the Distinguished Lecture, we will elect a chair and one representative-at-large; we will hear issues of concern from the officers and members (for example, progress on transforming the newsletter into an online form); we will read citations for this year’s Dissertation Award and Burnham Early-Career Award. Later that afternoon, at 3:30, we have our FHHS sponsored session, organized by Mark Solovey.

Though I step down as chair, my work in and for the Forum will continue, and I urge all of you to continue yours, as well. As long as our colleagues keep applying the methods of natural science to human dimensions, there is ample work for the Forum for History of Human Science. They will keep doing it, and it is usually a very interesting process that is seldom examined as it should be. I cannot tire of our work, because for me, intellectually, this is as good as it gets!

David K. Robinson, chair of FHHS (drobinso@truman.edu)

Agenda of 2010 FHHS business meeting, Montreal, Saturday, November 6, at noon:

  1. Minutes of 2009 meeting (included at end of this newsletter)
  2. Reports of officers (chair, secretary-treasurer, etc.)
  3. Discussion of old business (newsletter, etc.)
  4. Awarding the 2010 prizes
    1. Dissertation Award to Daniel B. Bouk (see below)
    2. Burnham Early-Career Award to Laura Stark (see below)
  5. Election of officers whose terms end (current holder in parentheses): Chair (David Robinson) Representative Three (Susan Lanzoni)
  6. New business.

FHHS Distinguished Lecture

Saturday 12:00-1:15 PM
“Recognising Glass Ceilings and Sticky Floors,” Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics and University of Amsterdam.

FHHS Sponsored Session

Saturday, 3:30-05:30 PM
Reexamining the Uneasy Partnership: Economics, the Nation State, and the Public Welfare, 1920s-1980s
Chair and Commentator: Sarah Igo, Vanderbilt University
Organizer: Mark Solovey, University of Toronto

  1. Re-Imagining Markets: The U.S. Consumer Movement and Federal Economists, 1920- 1970, Thomas A. Stapleford, University of Notre Dame
  2. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: Patrons, Public Image, and Research in Economics, 1970- 1985, Tiago Mata, University of Amsterdam
  3. To Measure, Monitor, and Manage the Nation’s Social Progress: U.S. Senator Walter Mondale’s Initiative to Create a Council of Social Advisers, 1967-1974, Mark Solovey, University of Toronto

FHHS highlights of HSS meeting, 4-7 November 2010

Friday, 09:00-11:45 AM
Entanglements of Instruments and Media in Investigating Organic Worlds
Chair and Commentator: Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire
Organizer: Joan Steigerwald, York University

  1. ‘Machina anthropometrica’: Weighing Perspiration in the Long 18th Century, Lucia Dacome, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto
  2. The Subject as Instrument: Galvanic Experiments, Organic Apparatus and Problems of Calibration, Joan Steigerwald, York University
  3. A Brief History of Slime: Protoplasm, Ectoplasm and the Instruments of Infra-Visibility, Robert Brain, University of British Columbia
  4. Surfing on the Sea of Brain Waves: Electroencephalography in Performance Art, Cornelius Borck, Institute for the History of Medicine and Science Studies, University of Lübeck, Germany

Friday, 09:00-11:45 AM
Rethinking Science and Race: Darwin, Boas, and Dobzhansky
Chair: John Beatty, University of British Columbia
Organizer: Lisa Gannett, Saint Mary’s University

  1. Darwin’s Explanation of Races by Means of Sexual Selection, Roberta Millstein, University of California, Davis
  2. Racial Science and the Burden of Proof in the Work of Franz Boas, John P. Jackson, Jr., University of Colorado, Boulder
  3. Franz Boas’s Interest in Human Genetics, Evolutionary Biology and Physical Anthropology, Veronika Lipphardt, Humboldt University of Berlin
  4. Races as Gene Pools: Reservoirs, Puddles, and Playing Cards, Lisa Gannett, Saint Mary’s University

Friday, 01:30-03:10 PM
Conceptions of Humanity
Chair: Benjamin Harris, University of New Hampshire

  1. The Rise and Fall of British Craniometry, 1860-1900, Elise Juzda, University of Cambridge
  2. Taking Fringe Science Seriously: Examining the Connection Between Phrenology and Evolutionary Theory, Sherrie Lyons, Empire State College
  3. Frozen Bodies: Representations of Catalepsy in French 19th-Century Medical Texts, Alexandra Bacopoulos-Viau, University of Cambridge
  4. When Apes Speak, Marta Halina, University of California, San Diego

Friday, 07:30-09:00 PM
Psychology in the 20th Century
Chair: TBD

  1. The Birth of Information in the Brain: Edgar Adrian and the Vacuum Tube, Justin Garson, University of Texas, Austin
  2. Narratives of the Unconscious: Henry Murray, Literary Interpretation, and the Thematic Apperception Test, Jason Richard Miller, University of California, Los Angeles
  3. Hugo Münsterberg, Psychotechnics, and the Psychologizing of Cinema, Jeremy Blatter, Harvard University
  4. “Murder of the Mind?” The Psychosurgery Controversy of the 1970s, Brian Casey, National Institute of Health

Friday, 07:30-09:00 PM
Making the Sciences Humaines Scientific
Chair: David Robinson, Truman State University

  1. The Language of Objects: Christian Jürgensen Thomsen’s Science of the Past, Kasper Risbjerg Eskildsen, Roskilde University, Denmark
  2. Lamarckism and the Constitution of Sociology, Snait B. Gissis, Tel Aviv University (Canceled)
  3. An Informant’s Guide to Observing Man: Ethnographic Questionnaires, and the Development of Early Observational Practices in ‘the Field’, Efram Sera-Shriar, University of Leeds
  4. ‘The Missing Link Expeditions’, 1921-28: Or, How Peking Man Wasn’t Found, Peter C. Kjaergaard, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Sunday, 10:00-12:00 PM
Gendering the Human Brain: Science, Language, and Sex Difference in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Chair: Carla Bittel, Loyola Marymount University
Organizer: Kimberly Hamlin, Miami University of Ohio

  1. Woman, Know Thyself: Gender, Phrenology, and the Female Brain, Carla J. Bittel, Loyola Marymount University
  2. Helen Hamilton Gardener’s Brain: Contested Understandings of Brain Science and Feminist Applications of the Scientific Method, Kimberly A. Hamlin, Miami University of Ohio
  3. Silas Weir Mitchell’s Nervous Malady and its Influence on the Rest Cure, Anne M. Stiles, Washington State University
  4. Transgendered Cells: A History of Metaphors about Astrocytes, Meg Upchurch, Transylvania University

Sunday, 10:00-12:00 PM
Science, Identity and Race
Chair: TBD

  1. “We can’t relocate the world”: Activism and the Bravo Medical Program, Laura Harkewicz, University of California, San Diego
  2. Gender Conservatism and Racial Liberalism in US Psychiatry: Dr. Viola W. Bernard and the Community Service Society of Harlem, 1943-1945, Dennis A. Doyle, Mississippi State University
  3. Personalized Medicine or Scientific Racism? The Persistence of the Genetic Theory of Race and its Modern Day Tuskegee, Andrea Patterson, California State University, Fullerton
  4. A Brazilian Dilemma: UNESCO Studies in Brazil and the Retreat from Race in the 1950s, Sebastián Gil-Riaño, University of Toronto

Forum for History of Human Science Awards — 2010 meeting (Montréal)

Winner of 2010 FHHS Dissertation Award (awarded in even-numbered years)

The 2010 FHHS Dissertation Award goes to an assistant professor of history at Colgate University: Daniel B. Bouk, “The Science of Difference: Developing Tools for Discrimination in the American Life Insurance Industry, 1830-1930,” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2009.


Life insurance, like other ubiquitous features of modern life, evolved in tandem with the growing application of scientific techniques over the last two centuries. In his dissertation, The Science of Difference: Developing Tools for Discrimination in the American Life Insurance Industry, 1830-1930, Daniel B. Bouk brilliantly analyzes the technical foundations of the U.S. life insurance industry as they sought to rationalize their rates. The dissertation was completed in 2009 at Princeton University, and was supervised by Daniel T. Rodgers.

In a cogent historiographical introduction, Bouk uses American historian Daniel Boorstin’s 1973 work on the development of “statistical communities” as a foil, setting up his own analysis as a form of cultural history of science. By following tools — the invention and deployment of various mathematical instruments for specifying differences — Bouk is able to plumb the changing variety of ways to discriminate among the population and assess how risk was conceptualized and calculated across time.

Starting with the adoption of the British “life table” based on mortality data, American insurers employed actuaries to make ever-finer discriminations, first on policyholder age and then on a variety of criteria. Company mathematicians developed technical rationales to support higher rates applied to the South and West in the 1840s and 50s. After the Civil War and the depression of the 1870s, companies started insuring wageworkers and used race as a variable in calculating mortality risk. When race classification was made illegal around the turn of the century, companies turned to the catchall term “impairment” to encompass a wide assortment of conditions that had some relation to longevity. Company medical doctors were key players in the emergence of this regime. Bouk closes his analysis with reflections on the co-evolution of the insurance industry and the public health infrastructure in the United States.

Bouk’s close reading of the esoteric details of rate calculations supports his discussion of his large theme: discrimination had important consequences in a host of arenas affecting individuals and families. Risk class determined whether one could purchase life insurance and at what economic cost. Because insurance could be used as a form of collateral, it affected access to credit. With death benefits, it facilitated cross- generational transfer of wealth. These subthemes and many others are handled with attention to empirical detail and placed within a rich cultural context.

The FHHS Dissertation Prize Committee was faced with a wealth of riches in the nominated dissertations. Daniel Bouk’s “The Science of Difference” rose to the top on the basis of its elegant conception, articulate argument, robust use of sources, and graceful writing style. The committee welcomes a fresh voice in the history of the human sciences and congratulates Daniel Bouk on a receiving this signal honor from our community of interest.

2010 Dissertation Award committee: James Capshew (chair), Richard Keller, Leila Zenderland

Winner of 2010 FHHS/JHBS Burnham Early Career Award (awarded annually)

The 2010 FHHS/JHBS John C. Burnham Early Career Award goes to an assistant professor at Wesleyan University, Department of Sociology and Program on Science in Society, Laura Stark, for her manuscript, “The Science of Ethics: Deception, the Resilient Self, and the APA Code of Ethics, 1966-1973,” recently published, under the same title, in Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 46:4 (Fall 2010): 337-370.


The 2010 Burnham Award Committee is pleased to award this year’s prize to Laura Stark, of Wesleyan University, for her original and compelling essay “The Science of Ethics: Deception, the Resilient Self, and the APA Code of Ethics, 1966-1973.”

Stark’s paper offers a fascinating recreation of the process by which the American Psychological Association (APA) arrived at ethical guidelines for human research. Expertly taking advantage of little-known archival resources, the author examines how a special committee was created, how it collected survey responses from thousands of American psychologists during the 1960s, and how it arrived at its recommendations. She convincingly argues that the committee members were influenced in their reading of the survey results by their own experience as researchers.

The main issue of contention was whether it was ethical to use “deception” during psychological experiments. Two models of human nature were at stake in this debate. Were subjects “resilient” and able to handle the fact that the psychologist had not disclosed the aims of the experiment? Or were they “fragile” and likely to be permanently harmed by being fooled by authority? Having employed deception in their own research, committee members were inclined to interpret the evidence of the surveys as supporting the “resilient” model. Thus, the committee’s make-up and their professional network played a significant role in closing the debate within the profession about the contentious issue of deception.

A case study in how professional bodies arrive at their ethics guidelines, Stark’s paper is well-written, persuasive, and capable of appealing to a non-specialist audience. It is a worthy example of scholarship in the history of the human sciences.

2010 Burnham committee: Daniela Barberis (chair), Joy Rohde, Jeff Pooley

Congratulations to the two winners, and many thanks to all who submitted entries and to those who volunteered their time to work on the prize committees.

Postdoc opening: ANR Project: Cross-disciplinary research ventures in postwar American social science

Description: Two two-year postdoctoral positions are available with the History of Social Science Group (H2S) at École normale supérieure de Cachan, France, starting October/November 2010. We are currently looking to hire two postdoctoral fellows for a newly funded grant from the Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR) to study cross- disciplinary research ventures in postwar American social science. One postdoc will work on Columbia University and the other on MIT.

Requirements: Candidates should have completed their doctoral degree in the history of economics, history of science, or history of social science, and have interest or expertise in cross-disciplinary research ventures in social science after WWII.

Start date: 1 Oct or Nov. 2010.

Stipend (net): 2120 euros (monthly) plus research money for archival work and conferences.

Application Instructions: Please send an email describing briefly background, previous training and interests along with a CV and contact information for two references. Journal publications or other samples of scholarly writing may also be included. Please send application materials to Philippe Fontaine at philippe.fontaine@ens-cachan.fr

Deadline to Apply: Flexible

Conference Report: “The Construction of Cold War Social Science: Between Geopolitics and Local Sites of Knowing” Mike Thicke, PhD candidate, University of Toronto

From May 21 to 22, the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science hosted a workshop on Cold War Social Science. It was organized by Mark Solovey (Toronto), Marga Vicedo (Toronto), and Edward Jones-Imhotep (York). The workshop brought together historians from across Canada, the United States, and Britain, and will cumulate in an edited volume tentatively entitled “The Construction of Social Science in Cold War America.” Its genesis lies in a number of sessions at the 2009 International History of Science Conference held in Budapest and a subsequent workshop in Canada.

This project comes at a time of great interdisciplinary and policy interest in the relationship between government and science during the Cold War. Several recent workshops and forthcoming volumes have concentrated on the social sciences after World War Two. Papers presented at the conference spanned topics from the role of instincts in explaining human behavior in the Cold War (Vicedo), to the Harvard Research Center’s attempt to “know the enemy” through its Refugee Interview Project (David Engerman), to the internationalist research field of Future Studies, which attempted to quantitatively predict large-scale trends in population growth, food supply, and energy use in order to assist governments of the world in long-term planning (Kaya Tolon), to the US military’s quest to understand its technicians in order to increase the reliability of the machines they operated (Jones-Imhotep).

The volume is tentatively organized under three broad themes: “Social Science Ways of Knowing,” “Human Nature,” and “Liberal Democracy.” Joel Isaac’s paper, “Cold War Modern: Epistemic Design and the Postwar Human Sciences,” exemplifies the first theme. Isaac describes how social scientists after 1945 became acutely concerned with organizing their data to support wider social wider social claims. Michael Bycroft’s paper, tracing the birth of psychological research into creativity during the 1950s and 60s, is an example of the second theme. Hamilton Cravens’s paper, an example of the third, argues that social scientists during the Cold War consciously used their research to support “the intellectual campaign against Communism,” and in turn the American nation-state, by conceiving of individuals as inseparable from their social group. Several interesting issues were raised during the workshop’s discussions. One was the interaction between social scientists and the Cold War institutions (government and military) that were an increasing source of funding. Although social scientists were employed by these institutions, they had their own agendas as well, as commentator Sebastian Gil-Riano observed. Another was the possible distinction between “Cold War social science” and “social science during the Cold War.” While many social science projects were directly connected to the Cold War proper, not all were. On the other hand, all of social science during this period was conducted within a pervasive atmosphere of fear: fear “of ideas, of change, of others, of machines, of death,” and fear of ourselves (Vicedo), and thus it was all necessarily connected to the Cold War.

There were also some potential concerns raised during the discussion. Hunter Heyck observed that many papers had a strong sense of irony in their narrative. Joy Rohde, for instance, described how the anti-war movement’s efforts to expel military- related research from university campuses ended up expanding the role of private research contract corporations in government. Heyck wondered if this sense of irony– perhaps the search for a neat and compelling narrative–might end up shaping those narratives more than we realize. Thomas Teo worried that the volume, with its focus on US social science, might be seen as overly ethnocentric, by not addressing social science in, for example, East Germany.

Finally, the workshop participants discussed how the forthcoming volume ought to be structured to appeal to a broader audience. It seems to potentially appeal to a variety of groups beyond just historians of social science. For instance, those concerned with the US military’s current Human Terrain program in Iraq and Afghanistan could make easy connections to the employment of anthropologists and psychologists in the Cold War’s Project Camelot. Nevertheless the volume is certainly aimed at academics and the participants agreed that it was unlikely that such a volume would penetrate the popular market.

FHHS Business Meeting, November 21, 2009, Phoenix, Arizona

David Robinson called the meeting to order at noon.

  1. Chair’s Report
    1. FHHS will move to an annual newsletter, to be posted online with a small number of hard copies made for members without access to email or the internet. The suggestion was made by Riki Kuklick to deposit a physical copy of the newsletter in a repository. David agreed that this was a good idea and said he’d follow up.
    2. FHHS relations with HSS. Status quo. One sponsored session continues to be permitted. The suggestion was made that we request that sessions related to the human sciences not be placed in the same time slot.
  2. Election of Officers
    1. Vice-­Chair: Jill Morawski was elected to replace John Carson
    2. Treasurer-Corresponding Secretary: Nadine Wideman was re-­elected for another term
    3. Recording Secretary: Laura Stark was elected to replace Ellen Herman
    4. Representative Two: Jamie Cohen-Cole was elected to replace Laura Stark
    5. Representative Three: Susan Lanzoni was elected to fill the final year of Jill Morawski’s term
  3. Newsletter. After many years of service, Michael Carhart has stepped down as our Newsletter Editor. After some discussion, it was agreed that Michael Pettit and Mark Solovey would co­‐edit the Newsletter in its new online incarnation.
  4. Prize Announcements and Citations
    1. FHHS/JHBS Early Career Award. This year’s award goes to Stéphanie Dupouy (École Normale Supérieure, Paris) for “Darwin, Observer of Expressions.” The citation (available on the FHHS website) was read by Susan Lanzoni.
    2. FHHS Article Prize. This year’s prize goes to Kasper Risbjerg Eskildsen for his article “Leopold Ranke’s Archival Turn: Location and Evidence in Modern Historiography,” published in Modern Intellectual History (2008). The citation (available on the FHHS website) was read by Michael Pettit.
  5. David Robinson adjourned the meeting at 12:27, and the Distinguished Lecture by Hamilton Cravens began.
  6. Treasurer’s Report by Nadine Weidman (submitted after the meeting for inclusion here):

For the year from Nov 2008- Nov 2009
Income: $130.00 from dues (plus about $15 in interest on the savings account)
Expenses: $205.00

  • for Cedant for maintaining the FHHS website;
  • for mailing prize submissions;
  • and for the dissertation award for 2008 (Laura Stark)

That leaves $1,270.22 in the FHHS account as of November 17, 2009. We might consider — since our costs for the newsletter have decreased (nearly vanished) — spending some of our money on increasing the amount of the dissertation award from $100 to $150 or even $200. Since we have raised dues, this seems only fair.

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