2018 Patrick Suppes Prize in the History of Science
Spring General Meeting
The recipient of the American Philosophical Society’s 2018 Patrick Suppes Prize in the History of Science is Angela Creager for her book Life Atomic: A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine. The book is an original and masterful contribution to the growing scholarship on how sciences are shaped by the development and deployment of new instruments. Breathtaking in scope, the book shows how--in the second half of the twentieth century--radioisotopes came to suffuse and transform research in fields ranging from the experimental life sciences (biochemistry and molecular biology) to the observational aspects of ecology and to both the diagnostic and the therapeutic aspects of bio-medicine.
Creager also demonstrates that since radioisotopes were overwhelmingly produced in the laboratories of the Atomic Energy Commission, the radioisotope revolution was to a large extent a product of the Cold War and of the varying political agenda of the Commission. Creager evenhandedly illuminates how radioisotopes thus served, at one and the same time, as sword, that is to develop the nation’s nuclear arsenal and as plowshare, that is, to expand its ability to make new scientific and clinical discoveries.
The book is strikingly authoritative, drawing on a rich array of sources, among them the records of federal agencies and academic institutions, private correspondence, and published scientific papers. In all, Life Atomic is a landmark of historical scholarship.
Angela Creager is the Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science and Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University.
The Patrick Suppes Prize honors accomplishments in three deeply significant scholarly fields, with the prize rotating each year between philosophy of science, psychology or neuroscience, and history of science. The history of science prize is awarded for an outstanding book in history of science appearing within the preceding six years. The works considered for the prize are restricted to works that emphasize detailed analysis of important systematic findings in any branch of science, ancient or modern, using quantitative and mathematical methods.
The selection committee was Ruth Schwartz Cowan (chair), Janice and Julian Bers Professor Emerita, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania; Babak Ashrafi, President, Chief Executive Officer, Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine; Daniel J. Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University; Alexander Nehamas, Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature, Princeton University; Noel M. Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics and of History, University of Chicago; Visiting Professor, California Institute of Technology; and the committee was put together by Richard Shiffrin, Distinguished Professor, Luther Dana Waterman Professor, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Indiana University.