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Objectivity (Objectivity)


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Historically brilliant, philosophically profound, and beautifully written, Objectivity will be the focus of discussion for decades to come. At one and the same time a history of scientific objectivity and a history of the scientific self, rarely have rigor and imagination been combined so seamlessly and to such deep effect. No one who opens this book can fail to be engaged and provoked by its energy, ideas, and arguments. One emerges from reading it as if from a series of intellectual earthquakes -- sound but no longer safe. -- Arnold Davidson, author of The Emergence of Sexuality: Historical Epistemology and the Formation of Concepts Objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison is not just a fine book, it is that rare thing, a great book. It is almost shockingly original, genuinely profound, and amazingly learned without ever being pedantic. It should force everyone interested in science and its history or in objectivity and its history to think more deeply about what they think they already know. It gives me great satisfaction to learn that thinking and writing of this brilliance and depth are still going on, even in this age of consumerism and mass markets. -- Hilary Putnam, author of Ethics without Ontology This richly illustrated book deeply renews the meaning of accurate reproduction by showing how many ways there have been to be 'true to nature.' Art science and reproduction techniques are merged to show that 'things in themselves' can be presented with their vast and beautiful company. This splendid book will be for many years the ultimate compendium on the joint history of objectivity and visualization. -- Bruno Latour, author of Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy

About the Author

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is the coauthor (with Katharine Park) of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 and (with Peter Galison) Objectivity and the editor of Things that Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science, all three published by Zone Books. Peter Galison is Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. He is the author of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time, How Experiments End, and Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics, among other books, and coeditor (with Emily Thompson) of The Architecture of Science (MIT Press, 1999).


This is a deeply researched book that will make you think. It is beautiful, and it is important....I recommend it to anyone-optimist or pessimist, female or male-with a healthy dash of curiosity and a cranium.

-Oren Harman, Bar Ilan University, Israel, The European Legacy

Daston and Galison's book will take its place among the most distinguished histories of the making of scientific knowledge.

-American Scientist

A truly outstanding book that will hopefully shape our future vision of what is meant by objectivity, from an epistemic as well as from an ethical (and aesthetical) point of view.

-Image and Narrative

As Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison point out in their capacious and engaging study of the concept of scientific objectivity from the 17th century to the present day, the universal form is key to understanding how modern science moved from the study of curiosities, through the representations of perfect, notional specimens, to a concept of objectivity as responsibility for science.

-Brian Dillon, Modern Painters

The author's argument here is complicated but fascinating (and, because the argument is about images, the book is beautiful).


This is a surprising, engrossing book that treats humanity's struggle to unsnarl the world and itself as a field of endless turmoil and fascination.

-Rain Taxi

We need history of science in the style of Daston and Galison: a history of science that commands the details but at the same time discerns the shape of larger developmentsand that makes us realize just how many meanings have been packed into the little word 'objectivity,' which rolls so trippingly off the tongue.

-Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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