Ken Alder

  • Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities
  • Professor, History, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Ken Alder is a professor of History at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. He is a Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities and studies the history of modern science and technology in the context of social and political change. He has published studies of eighteenth-century France and twentieth-century America. His first book, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815, appeared in 1997 and won the Edelstein Prize from the Society of the History of Technology. His second book, The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World, appeared in 2002. It won the Davis Prize from the History of Science Society, the Dingle Prize of the British Society for the History of Science, was co-winner of the Kagan Prize for European history from The Historical Society, and has been translated into 12 languages. His most recent work, The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession, was published in 2007.

For this and his current project, a comparative study of the relationship between science and the law in France and America from the sixteenth century to the present, he has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation. He has also served on the executive councils of the History of Science Society and the Society for the History of Technology, as well as an advisory editor on their respective journals, Isis and Technology & Culture. He also founded Northwestern’s science studies program, known as the Science in Human Culture Program.