I work at the intersection of political and intellectual history, with a focus on the interaction of knowledge production with political culture and institutions in the United States. I am especially interested in how discursive elements have moved between the public sphere and the increasingly specialized academic disciplines, and in the political contexts for this circulation.
My first book, Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2012), reinterprets the rise of the natural and social sciences as sources of political authority in modern America. It demonstrates the remarkable persistence of a belief that the scientific enterprise carried with it a set of ethical values capable of grounding a democratic culture – a political function widely assigned to religion. The book traces the shifting formulations of this belief from the creation of the research universities in the Civil War era to the early Cold War years. It examines hundreds of leading scholars who viewed science not merely as a source of technical knowledge, but also as a resource for fostering cultural change. This vision generated surprisingly nuanced portraits of science in the years before the military-industrial complex and has much to teach us today about the relationship between science and democracy.
My current book project, Rethinking Science and Religion: Toward a Political History of Postwar American Thought, explores how major shifts in the meanings of the terms “science” and “religion” have intersected with equally profound changes in American politics since World War II.
I have taught a range of courses on American and European thought, culture, and politics, as well as Social Studies 10a-10b. Recent offerings include “Science and Religion in American Public Culture,” “The US and Europe in Twentieth-Century Thought and Culture,” “Introduction to Intellectual History,” “The Human Sciences in the Modern West,” “Public Opinion and American Democracy,” and the twentieth-century U.S. graduate proseminar. I supervise research projects and general exam preparation in several fields, including History, Social Studies, History of American Civilization, History of Science, and The Study of Religion.
I recently co-directed, with Julie A. Reuben of the Graduate School of Education, a fellowship program of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History on “The Politics of Knowledge in Universities and the State.” (See link at right.)
Prior to arriving at Harvard in 2007, I taught at Yale, Vanderbilt, Cornell, and NYU and held fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and the Cornell Society for the Humanities. In my spare time, I can be found chasing my young son around the playgrounds of Cambridge.
- “Political Thought,” in the Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
- "Naturalizing Liberalism in the 1950s," Professors and Politics, eds. Neil Gross and Solon J. Simmons (forthcoming)
- Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
- “The Politics of Knowledge in 1960s America,” Social Science History 36, no. 4 (Winter 2012)
- “Canonizing Dewey: Columbia Naturalism, Logical Empiricism, and the Idea of American Philosophy,” Modern Intellectual History 8, no. 1 (April 2011)
- “Academic Freedom and Political Change: American Lessons,” in Universities in Translation: The Mental Labor of Globalization, ed. Brett de Bary (2010)
Position: Associate Professor of History and of Social Studies
Field: United States
Specialty: United States since 1865, American Intellectual History, American Politics, Science and Religion, Modern Social Thought, History of the Social Sciences, American Higher Education
35 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Office Hours: Thursdays 3-5pm