David Kaiser

David Kaiser is Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and Professor of Physics at MIT. He is the author of several award-winning books on the history of science, including Quantum Legacies: Dispatches from an Uncertain World, and the editor of Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision (MIT Press). His work has been featured in Science, Nature, the New York Times, and the New Yorker.

  • "Well, Doc, You're In"

    Freeman Dyson's Journey through the Universe

    David Kaiser

    The life and work of Freeman Dyson—renowned scientist, visionary, and iconoclast—and his particular way of thinking about deep questions.

    Freeman Dyson (1923–2020)—renowned scientist, visionary, and iconoclast—helped invent modern physics. Not bound by disciplinary divisions, he went on to explore foundational topics in mathematics, astrophysics, and the origin of life. General readers were introduced to Dyson's roving mind and heterodox approach in his 1979 book Disturbing the Universe, a poignant autobiographical reflection on life and science. “Well, Doc, You're In” (the title quotes Richard Feynman's remark to Dyson at a physics conference) offers a fresh examination of Dyson's life and work, exploring his particular way of thinking about deep questions that range from the nature of matter to the ultimate fate of the universe.

    The chapters—written by leading scientists, historians, and science journalists, including some of Dyson's colleagues—trace Dyson's formative years, his budding interests and curiosities, and his wide-ranging work across the natural sciences, technology, and public policy. They describe Dyson's innovations at the intersection of quantum theory and relativity, his novel nuclear reactor design (and his never-realized idea of a spacecraft powered by nuclear weapons), his years at the Institute for Advanced Study, and his foray into cosmology. In the coda, Dyson's daughter Esther reflects on growing up in the Dyson household. “Well, Doc, You're In” assesses Dyson's successes, blind spots, and influence, assembling a portrait of a scientist's outsized legacy.


    Jeremy Bernstein, Robbert Dijkgraaf, Esther Dyson, George Dyson, Ann Finkbeiner, Amanda Gefter, Ashutosh Jogalekar, David Kaiser, Caleb Scharf, William Thomas

    • Hardcover $29.95
  • Becoming MIT

    Becoming MIT

    Moments of Decision

    David Kaiser

    The evolution of MIT, as seen in a series of crucial decisions over the years.

    How did MIT become MIT? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology marks the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2011. Over the years, MIT has lived by its motto, “Mens et Manus” (“Mind and Hand”), dedicating itself to the pursuit of knowledge and its application to real-world problems. MIT has produced leading scholars in fields ranging from aeronautics to economics, invented entire academic disciplines, and transformed ideas into market-ready devices. This book examines a series of turning points, crucial decisions that helped define MIT. Many of these issues have relevance today: the moral implications of defense contracts, the optimal balance between government funding and private investment, and the right combination of basic science, engineering, and humanistic scholarship in the curriculum.

    Chapters describe the educational vison and fund-raising acumen of founder William Barton Rogers (MIT was among the earliest recipients of land grant funding); MIT's relationship with Harvard—its rival, doppelgänger, and, for a brief moment, degree-conferring partner; the battle between pure science and industrial sponsorship in the early twentieth century; MIT's rapid expansion during World War II because of defense work and military training courses; the conflict between Cold War gadgetry and the humanities; protests over defense contracts at the height of the Vietnam War; the uproar in the local community over the perceived riskiness of recombinant DNA research; and the measures taken to reverse years of institutionalized discrimination against women scientists.

    • Hardcover $25.95
    • Paperback $21.95
  • Pedagogy and the Practice of Science

    Pedagogy and the Practice of Science

    Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

    David Kaiser

    Studies examining the ways in which the training of engineers and scientists shapes their research strategies and scientific identities.

    Pedagogy and the Practice of Science provides the first sustained examination of how scientists' and engineers' training shapes their research and careers. The wide-ranging essays move pedagogy to the center of science studies, asking where questions of scientists' training should fit into our studies of the history, sociology, and anthropology of science. Chapter authors examine the deep interrelations among training, learning, and research and consider how the form of scientific training affects the content of science. They investigate types of training—in cultural and political settings as varied as Victorian Britain, interwar Japan, Stalinist Russia, and Cold War America—and the resulting scientific practices. The fields they examine span the modern physical sciences, ranging from theoretical physics to electrical engineering and from nuclear weapons science to quantum chemistry.

    The studies look both at how skills and practices can be transferred to scientists-in-training and at the way values and behaviors are passed on from one generation of scientists to the next. They address such topics as the interplay of techniques and changing research strategies, pedagogical controversies over what constitutes "appropriate" or "effective," the textbook as a genre for expressing scientific creativity, and the moral and social choices that are embodied in the training of new scientists. The essays thus highlight the simultaneous crafting of scientific practices and of the practitioners who put them to work.

    • Hardcover $45.00


  • Quantum Strangeness

    Quantum Strangeness

    Wrestling with Bell's Theorem and the Ultimate Nature of Reality

    George S. Greenstein

    A physicist's efforts to understand the enigma that is quantum mechanics.

    Quantum mechanics is one of the glories of our age. The theory lies at the heart of modern society. Quantum mechanics is one of our most valuable forecasters—a “great predictor.” It has immeasurably altered our conception of the natural world. Its philosophical implications are earthshaking. But quantum mechanics steadfastly refuses to speak of many things; it deals in probabilities rather than giving explicit descriptions. It never explains. Einstein, one of its creators, considered the theory incomplete. Even now, many years after the creation of quantum mechanics, physicists continue to argue about it. Astrophysicist George Greenstein has been both fascinated and confused by quantum mechanics for his entire career. In this book, he describes, engagingly and accessibly, his efforts to understand the enigma that is quantum mechanics.

    The fastest route to the insight into the ultimate nature of reality revealed by quantum mechanics, Greenstein writes, is through Bell's Theorem, which concerns reality at the quantum level; and Bell's 1964 discovery drives Greenstein's quest. Greenstein recounts a scientific odyssey that begins with Einstein, continues with Bell, and culminates with today's push to develop an industry of quantum machines. Along the way, he discusses spin, entanglement, experimental metaphysics, and quantum teleportation, often with easy-to-grasp analogies. We have known for decades that the world of the quantum was strange, but, Greenstein says, not until John Bell came along did we know just how strange.

    • Hardcover $19.95
  • Science and Technology in the Global Cold War

    Science and Technology in the Global Cold War

    Naomi Oreskes and John Krige

    Investigations of how the global Cold War shaped national scientific and technological practices in fields from biomedicine to rocket science.

    The Cold War period saw a dramatic expansion of state-funded science and technology research. Government and military patronage shaped Cold War technoscientific practices, imposing methods that were project oriented, team based, and subject to national-security restrictions. These changes affected not just the arms race and the space race but also research in agriculture, biomedicine, computer science, ecology, meteorology, and other fields. This volume examines science and technology in the context of the Cold War, considering whether the new institutions and institutional arrangements that emerged globally constrained technoscientific inquiry or offered greater opportunities for it.

    The contributors find that whatever the particular science, and whatever the political system in which that science was operating, the knowledge that was produced bore some relation to the goals of the nation-state. These goals varied from nation to nation; weapons research was emphasized in the United States and the Soviet Union, for example, but in France and China scientific independence and self-reliance dominated. The contributors also consider to what extent the changes to science and technology practices in this era were produced by the specific politics, anxieties, and aspirations of the Cold War.

    ContributorsElena Aronova, Erik M. Conway, Angela N. H. Creager, David Kaiser, John Krige, Naomi Oreskes, George Reisch, Sigrid Schmalzer, Sonja D. Schmid, Matthew Shindell, Asif A. Siddiqi, Zuoyue Wang, Benjamin Wilson

    • Hardcover $78.00
    • Paperback $40.00
  • The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Third Edition

    The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Third Edition

    Edward J. Hackett, Olga Amsterdamska, Michael E. Lynch, and Judy Wajcman

    A comprehensive and authoritative overview of current research, major theoretical perspectives, and new research directions in the study of science, technology, and society.

    Science and Technology Studies is a flourishing interdisciplinary field that examines the creation, development, and consequences of science and technology in their cultural, historical, and social contexts. The New Handbook of Science and Technology Studies provides a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the field, reviewing current research and major theoretical and methodological approaches and analyzing emergent issues in a form that is accessible to new and established scholars from a range of disciplines. Handbook chapters review the dominant theoretical perspectives of STS, present the current state of research on a spectrum of topics in the field, analyze changes brought about by the commercialization of science, study interactions between science and other institutions, examine the role of experts and the public in scientific and technological decision making, and consider the cultural and social dimensions of new technologies. The New Handbook of Science and Technology Studies is the third in a series of volumes sponsored by the Society for Social Studies of Science that have defined the field of Science and Technology Studies. It will be an essential resource for scholars in that field as well as for those in such neighboring disciplines as anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology, law, political science, feminist and critical theory, and literary studies.

    ContributorsVincanne Adams, Warwick Anderson, Brian Balmer, Daneil Barben, Pablo Boczkowski, Steve Breyman, Massimiano Bucchi, Regula Burri, Nancy Campbell, Adele E. Clarke, H.M. Collins, Susan E. Cozzens, Jennifer L. Croissant, Park Doing, Joseph Dumit, Steven Epstein, Henry Etzkowitz, Robert Evans, Erik Fisher, Stefan Fuchs, Sonia Gatchair, Ronald N. Giere, Thomas F. Gieryn, Namrata Gupta, David H. Guston, Adam Hedgecoe, Christopher R. Henke, David Hess, Linda Hogle, Alan Irwin, Sheila Jasanoff, Deborah G. Johnson, David Kaiser, William Keith, Carol Kemelgor, Kyung-Sup Kim, Andrew Lakoff, Bruno Latour, Leah A. Lievrouw, Margaret Lock, Brian Martin, Paul Martin, Philip Mirowski, Cyrus Mody, Federico Neresini, Gonzalo Ordóñez, Nelly Oudshoorn, Trevor Pinch, Alex Preda, Brian Rappert, William Rehg, Marina Ranga, Cynthis Selin, Esther-Mirjam Sent, Steven Shapin, Sergio Sismondo, Laurel Smith-Doerr, Miriam Solomon, Susan Leigh Star, John Stone, Lucy Suchman, Anupit Supnithadnaporn, Charles Thorpe, Stephen Turner, The Virtual Knowledge Studio, Jameson M. Wetmore, Sally Wyatt, Steven Yearley

    • Hardcover $72.00