Northwestern Events Calendar


Global Café | How to Measure the World… (Ken Alder)

When: Wednesday, November 13, 2019
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM CT

Where: 2010 Sheridan Road, Room 201, 2010 Sheridan Road , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Student

Cost: Free

Contact: Linda Remaker   (847) 491-7980

Group: International Studies

Category: Academic


Please join the International Studies Program for dinner and conversation with Ken Alder, Professor of History and Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern.

Ken Alder studies the transnational history of science and technology in the context of social and political change. One central theme in his work is the history of measurement—both of nature and of human beings—and the many ways that quantitative values reflect social values. The other central theme in his work is the potency of material artifacts. He has worked on 18th-century France and 20th-century America, and his new project on the history of objects carries him from ancient Mesopotamia and colonial West Africa to our own era of Chinese manufacturing and the genomics revolution.

Alder's first book, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815, used the history of a particular artifact—the gun—to rewrite the history of the political and scientific changes that accompanied the French Revolution. His second book, The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World, examined the origins of the metric system in Revolutionary France.

His most recent book, The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession examines the fraught relation between truth and justice in 20th-century America. Alder is currently working on two projects. The first traces the history of the forensic sciences from the Renaissance to the genomics revolution to explore the shifting relationship between identification and identity. The second examines the history of “artificial beings” (aka material artifacts) from the early 21st century BCE to the early 21st century CE.

Alder served as the chair of the History Department from 2014 to 2017 and is the founding director of the Northwestern's Science in Human Culture program.

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