HSS 50th Anniversary Lecture
HSS welcomes Kevles as the first speaker in the 50th anniversary series. Kevles was on the HSS faculty for more than 35 years (1964-2001) as one of the key scholars in the history of science. His research and writings encompass the interplay of science, technology, and society past and present with a focus on the United States. He is recognized for historical surveys that assemble large amounts of information into accessible narratives. His many books include The Physicists (1978), a history of the American physics community; In the Name of Eugenics (1985), the standard text on the history of eugenics in the United States; and The Baltimore Case (1998), a study of accusations of scientific fraud.
Previewing his talk entitled, "Between the Archives and the Athenaeum: Caltech as Living History," Kevles explains:
"I realized not long after I joined the Caltech faculty, in September 1964, that the Institute was a treasure house for a historian of twentieth-century science and technology. It offered a rich banquet of resources –the extensive records that revealed so much about the development of the century's cutting-edge fields, notably atomic and nuclear physics as well as genetics and molecular biology; the then-current science and engineering faculty, many of whom had made recent history (I thought of them as the Los Alamos Generation) and were happy to recount their experiences at the round tables; and the encouraging ambience of the modernizing HSS Division. The Division provided not only a degree of infrastructural support that was astonishing to colleagues at other institutions. It also offered a remarkably stimulating intellectual environment, housing disciplines ranging from Elizabethan literature to politics, economics, and anthropology. My colleagues in social science were remaking their fields, and I learned new and profitable ways of thinking from them wherever we gathered, whether it was recruitment dinners at the Athenaeum or the summer-softball field. Those were the days."