Professor Wins History of Science Award

Steven Shapin, an emeritus professor in the History of Science department, has been awarded the 2014 Sarton Medal for Lifetime of Scholarly Achievement by the History of Science Society.

The Sarton Medal is awarded every year to a scholar from the international community and is considered one of the highest honors in the history of science field. It has been awarded since 1955 and pays homage to George Sarton, who founded “Isis,” the official publication of the History of Science Society.

“This award is a very great honor for the department,” said Janet Browne, History of Science department chair. “Shapin is a distinguished historian and sociologist of science and has dedicated his career to thinking deeply about science and its place in our world.”

Shapin, who is the Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science, said he was “very surprised” and honored to receive the award.

A group of history of science scholars from around the country who nominated Shapin for the award, including Browne, lauded his “extraordinary impact on both the history and sociology of science.”


“He is especially notable for his innovative restructuring of the way we think about science,” the nominators wrote. “In this, he has always aimed for the big issues: the nature of truth, the role of trust, the emergence of accredited knowledge, and more recently, representations of scientific identity, and the moral authority that modern science has come to hold.”

Shapin joined the Harvard faculty in 2004. He was also awarded the Erasmus Prize in 2005 along with his co-author, Simon Schaffer, for their book “Leviathan and the Air-Pump,” which talks about experimental practice in the scientific revolution.

Shapin said he is currently working on a new book on the cultural and sociological history of taste and the palate.

—Staff writer Carolina I. Portela-Blanco can be reached at


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