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Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures

By: Lorraine Daston(Editor)

397 pages, 25 b/w photos, 11 b/w illustrations, 1 table

University of Chicago Press

Paperback | Aug 2017 | #235409 | ISBN-13: 9780226432366
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Hardback | no dustjacket | Aug 2017 | #235408 | ISBN-13: 9780226432229
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About this book

Archives bring to mind rooms filled with old papers and dusty artifacts. But for scientists, the detritus of the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research: fossils collected by geologists; data banks assembled by geneticists; weather diaries trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. These are the vital collections, assembled and maintained over decades, centuries, and even millennia, which define the sciences of the archives.

With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more – as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman Antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, Science in the Archives reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long­-term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science.

"The twelve essays in this elegantly crafted volume explore, as editor Lorraine Daston puts it, 'how the sciences choose to remember past findings and plan future research'. They look at ways in which scholars have preserved and ordered scientific knowledge from antiquity to the present [...]. [T]he book raises important historical questions about how scholars know what has been done in the past, incorporate it into their own work, share it with others, and plan to preserve it for the future. At the same time, it offers intriguing insights into the practice of scholarly communities over a wide swathe of western history and a model of individual papers transformed into a coherent and readable whole."
– Mathematical Association of America

"Science in the Archives achieves startling coherence despite its enormous range. The science at stake embraces varieties of knowledge making that include scientific disciplines like genetics, astronomy, and climatology, yet that also reach back to Antiquity and forward to the databases of today. Each of the twelve chapters argues a different case, together unfolding the crucial generative power of archival practice. This volume – rich, rigorous – should be required reading for anyone who thinks the sciences and the humanities are really distinct domains."
– Lisa Gitelman, New York University

"Renowned historian of science Daston and her line-up of stellar scholars show that how data and information are organized is part of the scientific process. This essential book traces how archives provided crucial support to the process of creating scientific data."
– Jacob Soll, University of Southern California

"This pathbreaking book brilliantly illuminates how scientific work consistently relies on the making and keeping of records. Twelve richly researched studies highlight long continuities in the hopes and resources invested in archiving of scientific research for current and future use."
– Ann Blair, Harvard University


Introduction: Third Nature
      Lorraine Daston
I. Nature's Own Canon: Archives of the Historical Sciences
1. Astronomy after the Deluge
      Florence Hsia
2. The Earth as Archive: Contingency, Narrative, and the History of Life
      David Sepkoski
3. Empiricism in the Library: Medicine’s Case Histories
      Andrew Mendelsohn
II. Spanning the Centuries: Archives from Ancient to Modern
4. Archiving Scientific Ideas in Greco-Roman Antiquity
      Liba Taub
5. Ancient History in the Age of Archival Research
      Suzanne Marchand
6. The Immortal Archive: Nineteenth-Century Science Imagines the Future
      Lorraine Daston
III. Problems and Politics: Controversies in the Global Archive
7. The “Data Deluge”: Turning Private Data into Public Archives
      Bruno J. Strasser
8. Evolutionary Genetics and the Politics of the Human Archive
      Cathy Gere
9. Montage and Metamorphosis: Climatological Data Archiving and the U.S. National Climate Program
      Vladimir Janković
IV. The Future of Data: Archives of the New Millennium
10. Archives-of-Self: The Vicissitudes of Time and Self in a Technologically Determinist Future
      Rebecca Lemov
11. An Archive of Words
      Daniel Rosenberg
12. Querying the Archive: Data Mining from Apriori to PageRank
      Matthew L. Jones
Epilogue: The Time of the Archive
      Lorraine Daston

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Lorraine Daston is director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and is visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

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