2010-2011 Dissertation Fellows

The Center has awarded seven fellowships for dissertation research in area archives and libraries, as well as two fellowships for dissertation writing. Dissertation Research Fellows will spend one or two months conducting research in the Philadelphia area. Dissertation Writing Fellows will spend nine months in residence at the Center and will present their work for the Regional Colloquium in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

for 2010-2011

History of Science, Harvard University

Bridging the Disjunction: Asa Gray and the Botanical Exchanges between East Asia and North America

My project is about Asa Gray and his influences on the botanical exchanges between East Asia and North America between the 1850s and the 1920s. In 1858, Gray proposed that there had been floristic affinities between the flora of East Asia and that of eastern North America. These unexpected affinities, particularly in light of the vast distance between the two regions, served as strong proof of evolution by natural selection on the one hand and as a catalyst for the botanical exchanges between the East and the West on the other. My dissertation will show plants as a cultural bridge among systems of thought and as objects of botanical and cultural inquiries. The collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Pennsylvania will help to clarify central themes in my dissertation and equip me with a broader vision to engage with the materials housed in East Asia.

History, University of Virginia

Mainframing America: Computers, Systems, and the Transformation of U.S. Policy and Society, 1940-1985

My research project examines the use of computers by the Federal government during a roughly 40-year period following World War II, with a particular interest in the ways in which the presence of computers and the modes of thought associated with their use (particularly systems analysis) transformed the development, implementation, and reception of certain federal domestic policies. My intent is to place organizational methods and mindsets predominantly associated with the Cold War and Military-Industrial Complex within the context of domestic policymaking, showing the unexpected ways in which process—the method of how things are designed and done—can shape policy and political outcomes and subsequently influence broader cultural understandings of government. Four case studies combine political and policy histories with the histories of technology, business/organizational management, and information to examine specific uses of computers in postwar federal social welfare, environmental, transportation, and urban development policymaking.

Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

In Pursuit of the “Tomorrow Mind”: Identifying and Educating Future Scientists and Non-Scientists in America

The professionalization of science in the late-19th century introduced the enduring conceptions of “scientists” and “non-scientists” as distinct types of people with different educational needs. Through the science curriculum, psychological testing and assessment of scientific identities and aptitudes, guidance and vocational counseling, and research on science curriculum and pedagogy, educators engaged in a century-long systematic quest to codify, normalize, and apply ideas about the unique characteristics of each group and how each was expected to make use of scientific knowledge. My dissertation will examine how 20th-century U.S. educators constructed and effectuated the notions of “future scientist” and “non-scientist” as entities distinct in makeup, educability, and civic responsibility. It will further consider how the articulation and enactment of educational differentiation in science both shaped and responded to changing views of the nature of the scientific enterprise and its place in society.

History, Yale University; Medicine, University of Rochester

Insensible Souls: Mesmerism, Science, and the American Imagination, 1837-1860

My dissertation is an intellectual and cultural history of mesmerism in America, situating its rise between the 1830s and 1850s in the wake of the second great awakening, the rise of a market economy, and medical reform. I follow mesmerism through lecture halls, sermons, medico-scientific practices, and literary and artistic works. Surprisingly understudied, mesmerism reveals the blurry lines between popular entertainment and scientific knowledge; quackery and alternative healing; between religious revival and a self-proclaimed science of the soul; and a robust intellectual engagement within and between 19th-century American science, medicine, and art. Mesmerism, widespread in antebellum American culture, has received relatively little attention by historians of science and medicine. In demonstrating its span across many domains of culture, this project illuminates more generally the fascinating, strange, and unexpected ways in which widespread interest in natural knowledge—science and medicine—was manifest in mid-19th-century American culture.

History, University of Texas at Austin

Entangled Knowledge, Expanding Nation: Local Science and the United States Empire in the Southeast Borderlands, 1763-1840

This dissertation uses an entangled history perspective to argue that local knowledge in the southeast borderlands—lower Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Floridas—had a major impact on science and expansion in the early United States. Local science in this region was multinational, well established, and very closely aligned with circum-Caribbean networks. As the U.S. worked to incorporate this region, officials and scientific institutions drew on the area’s multinational local science to expand both their knowledge and their nation. This hypothesis challenges Anglo-centric historical narratives that European science and technologies of power followed the American flag across the continent. U.S. officials and scientific institutions did not create the scientific practices used to dominate and profit from the southeast borderlands. They developed them by consulting and incorporating local experts. U.S. science and expansion were not merely national or Anglo-Atlantic developments: both drew on traditions of knowledge and power from the circum-Caribbean.

History, Rutgers University

Iron Curtain, Iron Lungs: The International Governance of Polio in the Cold War from a Hungarian Perspective

“Iron Curtain, Iron Lungs” aims to understand the complex international management of poliomyelitis during the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s. It is an interdisciplinary project that combines insights from the history of medicine, political and social history and childhood and disability studies. My dissertation argues that the debilitating disease politicized the bodies of children, yet enabled the creation of a safe space where cooperation between two opposing sides became possible. Virologists, vaccines, iron lungs and scientific knowledge crossed the iron curtain both ways, uniting East and West in a seemingly apolitical cause: saving children from the disease. Through a global history of polio, this project aims to examine personal, national and global responsibilities regarding epidemics. I am currently researching the Eastern European perspective in Hungary. The PACHS fellowship will help to develop the dissertation’s arguments and further investigate American context through governmental papers, personal correspondence, and secondary sources.

for 2010-2011

History & Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

Life on Ice: Frozen Blood, Human History, and Biodiversity in a Genomic Age

Anthropologists have long collected materials and stories from communities thought to be disappearing. In the late 1950s, new technologies for cold storage enabled the accumulation and freezing of blood from research subjects living in remote regions of the world. In the late 1980s, the emergence of PCR led scientists to return to these samples to study the DNA contained within. This dissertation examines what it has meant to possess blood collected from subjects distributed unevenly in time and space; who “authors” narratives about identity and health, in what contexts, and with what effects; how the logic of genomics leads diverse bodies to become standardized sources of biovalue; and how technologies of preservation, such as cold storage, destabilize ontological categories of life and death, human and non-human. Attention to the historical collection, transport, storage, and circulation of blood illuminates conditions of possibility for being human in the 21st century.

History of Science and Technology, Iowa State University

State Policy, Agricultural Research and Transformation of Indian Agriculture, With Special Reference to Basic Food Crops, 1947-1985

I investigate the interactions of agricultural science/technology with the political context of Cold War, Third World nationalism, economic development, and modernization needs of India. I will analyze how the U.S. and the Indian government, in association with private agencies, used scientific and technological resources to increase crop production to avert the specter of communism and famine. My analysis of research reports of Indian agricultural institutes challenges the prevalent notion that biochemical resource-based modern agriculture started in India with the introduction of Green Revolution technology in 1965-66. I seek to understand the nature of agricultural research and its correlation with the burgeoning Indian fertilizer industry. My research draws on Indian and American documents including reports of government agencies, newspapers, World Bank, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and Indian Communist Party, U.S. corporate histories, and private papers of public officials in the libraries of University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the Hagley Museum and Library.