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Indermohan Virk
William T. Patten Foundation

Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012

Historian of science Peter Galison to present Patten Lectures at IU

IU Cinema to screen documentary 'Secrecy'

March 19, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Peter Galison, one of the most highly respected contemporary historians of science and a public intellectual with a national and international reputation, will deliver two Patten Lectures in April at Indiana University Bloomington.

Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University, is also a filmmaker who has created several important documentaries for public television and cinema. His IU lectures will include:

  • "Blacking-Out Words and Worlds," 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the Moot Court Room of the IU Maurer School of Law, , 211 S. Indiana Ave.
  • "Science, Technology and the Reformulation of the Self," 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5, also in the Moot Court Room of the IU Maurer School of Law.
Peter Galison

Peter Galison

Galison's film "Secrecy," which addresses the topic of government classification of information under the rubric of military secrecy, will be screened at the IU Cinema at 7 p.m. Monday, April 2.

The "Blacking-Out Words and Worlds" lecture will focus on the history of the modern national security secrecy system, from its creation during World War I through Cold War-era nuclear secrets to its expansion after 9/11. Galison argues that secrecy has been extended to create a "vaster, penumbral zone of para-secrecy," raising questions about information and democracy.

His second Patten Lecture will track the history of the self from the 1920s through the early 2000s by following material technologies, including Rorschach's ink-blot tests, cyberkinetic-feedback machines and the implications of technological failures for understanding human-machine interaction.

Galison's early training was in particle physics, and he holds doctorates in physics and the history of science, but his work has also had profound influence outside his own field of scholarship.

His research focuses on the complex relationship between the three principal "subcultures" of modern physics: experimentation, instrumentation and theory. His monographs on experiment, "How Experiments End," and on instruments, "Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics," are expected to be followed by a final volume on theory.

"Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps" begins the study of theory by focusing on the ways in which relativity theory stood at the intersection of technology, philosophy and physics.

Galison's books also include "Objectivity" (with Lorraine Daston); "Picturing Science, Producing Art"; "The Architecture of Science"; "Big Science"; "The Disunity of Science"; "Atmospheric Flight in the 20th Century"; and "Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture." His films include "The Ultimate Weapon: The H-Bomb Dilemma," which premiered on the History Channel in 2000; and "Secrecy," which had its first screening at the Sundance Festival in 2008.

Galison has received the Max Planck Research Award, the Pfizer Award from the History of Science Society and a MacArthur Fellowship, and he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About the Patten Lecture Series

The William T. Patten Foundation has brought to IU Bloomington more than 150 scholars of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937, making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. Chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee, Patten lecturers have represented more than 50 academic departments and programs.

William T. Patten received his A.B. degree in 1893 in history from IU. After graduation he settled in Indianapolis, where he made a career in real estate and politics. In 1931, he created an endowment for the university, with the income used for bringing to the campus eminent leaders for residence and lectures to enrich the intellectual life of the campus.

For more information, visit Inquiries about the Patten Foundation and the Patten Lecture Series should be sent to