Spring 2023 Colloquium


Lectures begin at 3:35pm in 125 Nicholson Hall on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. 

At this time, all events will be in-person unless otherwise stated. Some events may be subject to change. Please check back for updates or contact hstm@umn.edu for more information. 

To learn more about MCPS sponsored lectures, please visit their website


Alma Steingart, February 10, 3:35 pm

Department of History, Columbia University

Title: On Mathematical Measurement and Representative Politics: Rethinking the 1960s Apportionment Revolution

One person, one vote image

Abstract: The Supreme Court’s 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr sparked renewed interest in the mathematics of electoral politics in the United States. In the three months following the Court’s ruling that malapportionment cases were justiciable, challenges to the existing apportionment plan were brought up in 22 states. Initially, however, there was no clearly articulated standard by which malapportionment should be measured. As then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller retorted when pressed on why New York has not revised its apportionment plan, “But what would be your basis for apportionment? Have you got a formula?” In search of a solution, political scientists, mathematicians, and early computer enthusiasts began asking whether mathematical analysis could be used to achieve fair representation. In this talk, I survey some of the early 1960s attempts to bring mathematical and computational techniques to the study of political representation. I demonstrate how conflicting ideas about how to measure fairness came to influence electoral politics in the Unites States and how claims to mathematical exactitude served to further obscure political questions. 



Justin Biddle, February 17, 3:35pm

School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology

 Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science logo

Title: Organizational Perspectives on Values in Artificial Intelligence

MCPS Lecture






Erik Heinrichs, February 24, 3:35pm

History, Winona State University

Title: tba


Elena Aronova, March 17, 3:35pm

History, University of California Santa Barbara

Title: Collaboration Across and Beyond “Two Cultures”


Abstract: There is a growing recognition today that the image of the sciences and the humanities as two separate “cultures”, famously described by C.P. Snow in his Rede lecture in 1959, is no longer tenable. Movements within the historical profession, such as “big history,” “deep history”, and bio-history, are trying to articulate modes of constructive engagement between historians and natural scientists. Within natural sciences, there has been a similar pattern in the relatively recent past that involves the increasing blurring of boundaries between the natural and the social/human sciences. The trend is posited as distinctly twenty-first-century phenomenon. Against this backdrop, I argue that throughout the twentieth century, when the specialization has driven the sciences and the humanities father apart, there have been notable examples of collaborations between natural scientists and historians, that were diverse, complex, and, at times, surprisingly productive.

In the paper, I consider 3 examples of collaboration across and beyond “two cultures”. The first example considers the case of the International Center of Synthesis in Paris, which promoted and institutionalized interdisciplinary and international collaboration as an end goal of this institution operating between 1925 and 1939. The second example considers the entanglements between the emergence of Big Science and the project of “Big History” – a large-scale collaborative project of writing a “universal history for the twentieth century,” launched by UNESCO in the 1950s. In the third example, I will consider an effort to carve a space for history within a Big Science project in geophysics, the International Geophysical Year (IGY), and its successor, the World Data Center system. These different programs were designed to straddle the two cultures. Some of these efforts were more successful, others less so, but this, I would suggest, is in itself a phenomenon worthy of note: throughout the twentieth century, natural scientists have increasingly recognized that many scientific questions are composites of the natural and the social, and that many of the problems they address – in physics, in evolutionary biology or in environmental data collection – are hybrid problems, involving interrelationship of the social and natural worlds.


Rasmus Winther, March 24, 3:35pm

Humanities, UC, Santa Cruz

 Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science logo

Title: Our Genes

MCPS Lecture


Graham Mooney, March 31, 3:35pm

History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

Title: TBD


Nathan Crowe, April 14, 3:35pm

Department of History, University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Cover image of the book Forgotten Clones

Title: “Forgotten Clones: The Birth of Cloning and the Biological Revolution”

Abstract: Long before scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, American embryologist and aspiring cancer researcher Robert Briggs and his team developed the technique of nuclear transplantation using frogs in 1952. Although the history of cloning is often associated with contemporary ethical controversies, Forgotten Clones revisits the influential work of scientists like Briggs, Thomas King, Marie DiBerardino, John Gurdon, and University of Minnesota’s own Robert McKinnell before the possibility of human cloning and its ethical implications first registered as a concern in public consciousness. By focusing instead on new laboratory techniques and practices and their place in Anglo-American science and society in the mid-twentieth century, I demonstrate how embryos constructed in the lab were only later reconstructed as ethical problems in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of what was then referred to as the Biological Revolution. My work illuminates the importance of the early history of cloning for the biosciences and their institutional, disciplinary, and intellectual contexts, as well as providing new insights into the changing cultural perceptions of the biological sciences after the Second World War.



Stephen Snobelen, April 21, 3:35pm

History of Science and Technology, University of King's College, Halifax

Title: TBD


Earlier Colloquium


David Redish, January 20, 3:35pm

Neuroscience, University of Minnesota

 Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science logo

Annual Science Studies Symposium & MCPS Lecture

Title: The New Science of Morality




Merlin Chowkwanyun, January 27, 3:35pm

School of Public Health, Columbia University

book cover and a picture

​Title: Local Politics and Health Reform, Then and Now

Abstract: Conventional medical research fetishes conclusions derived from aggregate (typically quantitative) datasets. What results are top-down, national narratives of health policy that marginalize the thick experience of specific places. This talk takes an alternative approach and argues that one cannot understand the origins of health problems -- and the success of solutions to address them -- without analyzing the local context that surrounds them. We'll examine battles over pollution caused by industrial giants, coal extractors and fights over the unequal distribution of medical care in major cities via deep dives -- not ephemeral stops -- in four localities: New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Central Appalachia. In addition to arguing for the virtues of the local optic, this lecture will also analyze localism as a political practice, which was embraced by community health advocates in the mid-20th century, only to fizzle and confront new challenges a few decades later that remain today.