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Lorraine J. Daston

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 and the editor of Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (both Zone Books).

Titles by This Author

Objectivity has a history, and it is full of surprises. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images.

objectivity2.jpg From the eighteenth through the early twenty-first centuries, the images that reveal the deepest commitments of the empirical sciences—from anatomy to crystallography—are those featured in scientific atlases, the compendia that teach practitioners what is worth looking at and how to look at it. Galison and Daston use atlas images to uncover a hidden history of scientific objectivity and its rivals. Whether an atlas maker idealizes an image to capture the essentials in the name of truth-to-nature or refuses to erase even the most incidental detail in the name of objectivity or highlights patterns in the name of trained judgment is a decision enforced by an ethos as well as by an epistemology.

As Daston and Galison argue, atlases shape the subjects as well as the objects of science. To pursue objectivity—or truth-to-nature or trained judgment—is simultaneously to cultivate a distinctive scientific self wherein knowing and knower converge. Moreover, the very point at which they visibly converge is in the very act of seeing not as a separate individual but as a member of a particular scientific community. Embedded in the atlas image, therefore, are the traces of consequential choices about knowledge, persona, and collective sight. Objectivity is a book addressed to anyone interested in the elusive and crucial notion of objectivity—and in what it means to peer into the world scientifically.

Wonders and the Order of Nature is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

Titles by This Editor

Object Lessons from Art and Science

Imagine a world without things. There would be nothing to describe, nothing to explain, remark, interpret, or complain about. Without things, we would stop speaking; we would become as mute as things are alleged to be. In nine original essays, internationally renowned historians of art and of science seek to understand how objects become charged with significance without losing their gritty materiality. True to the particularity of things, each of the essays singles out one object for close attention: a Bosch drawing, the freestanding column, a Prussian island, soap bubbles, early photographs, glass flowers, Rorschach blots, newspaper clippings, paintings by Jackson Pollock. Each is revealed to be a node around which meanings accrete thickly. But not just any meanings: what these things are made of and how they are made shape what they can mean. Neither the pure texts of semiotics nor the brute objects of positivism, these things are saturated with cultural significance. Things become talkative when they fuse matter and meaning; they lapse into speechlessness when their matter and meanings no longer mesh.

Each of the nine evocative objects examined in this book had its historical moment, when the match of this thing to that thought seemed irresistible. At these junctures, certain things become objects of fascination, association, and endless consideration; they begin to talk. Things that talk fleetingly realize the dream of a perfect language, in which words and world merge.

Ideas in History

This monumental work traces the rise, the transformation, and the diffusion of probabilistic and statistical thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The contributors - scientists, historians, and philosophers of science from eight countries make it possible for readers trained in many disciplines to see why the probabilistic revolution has been so complete and so successful.

Lorenz Kr?and Michael Heidelberger are philosophers of science at Gottingen University. Lorraine J. Daston is a historian at Brandeis University. Gerd Gigerenzer is a psychologist at the University of Constance, and Mary S. Morgan is an economist at York University.