You are invited to a lecture

Ken Alder, professor of history and Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, will present the Scholars’ Convocation Lecture at Grinnell College on Thursday, March 14. Alder also directs Northwestern’s Science in Human Culture Program. His lecture is free and open to the public.

Alder’s Scholars’ Convocation Lecture is titled “The World’s Measure: A History of Scientific Values.”

11 a.m. Thursday, March 14

Room 101, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

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. 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.

He has published three history books:

  • “Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France” examines the role of engineering sciences in the unfolding of the French Revolution. It won the 1998 Dexter Prize of the Society for the History of Technology
  • “The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World” tells the quixotic story of two astronomers sent out during the French Revolution to measure the size of the world so as to define a new unit of measure – the meter. The book has been translated into 13 languages and won the Kagan Prize of The Historical Society, the Davis Prize of the History of Science Society and the Dingle Prize of the British Society for the History of Science.
  • “The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession” examines the failed effort to transform American justice by means of this infamous truth-telling device.

Alder was born and raised near Berkeley, California, where he was part of a bussing program to achieve racial integration in the public schools – the subject of his first novel, “The White Bus” (New York, 1987). He attended Harvard University as a physics major, then received his Ph.D. there in the history of science in 1991. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information about parking and accessibility is available on the college’s website: Herrick Chapel is equipped with an induction hearing loop system, which enables individuals with hearing aids set to T-Coil to hear the program. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235

Minors under age 18 need to be accompanied by an adult. Grinnell College is not responsible for supervision of minors on campus.