Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Cultures in Common: 50 Years of Reflection on Science, Technology, and Society

May 7-8, 2009,
Locations and times vary; see program.


On May 7, 1959, C.P. Snow, the prominent Cambridge (UK) scientist, novelist, and government adviser, gave a lecture that introduced a memorable phrase into discussions of science's place in society. Entitled "The Two Cultures," Snow's lecture described a growing gulf between the cultures of the sciences and the humanities, a divide that Snow saw as dangerous and a hindrance to responsible education and problem solving. The 50th anniversary of that lecture marks an occasion for us to take stock and to see whether Snow's arguments hold water today. On May 7-8, 2009, the Harvard Kennedy School's Program on Science, Technology and Society, together with the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Humanities Center at Harvard, and the STS Program at MIT, will present a panel discussion and workshop on the "two cultures." Under the heading "Cultures in Common," a distinguished roster of speakers from Harvard, MIT, and beyond will explore the many ways in which the cultures of science—far from standing apart from the rest of the academic disciplines—are in constant conversation with the cultures of the humanities, the social sciences, the arts, the law, and, not least, engineering and applied sciences. The occasion will help frame an agenda for 21st century Cambridge (Massachusetts) conversations on education and research at the intersections of science, technology, and society.

An article on the panel was published in the Harvard Gazette: “Still ‘two cultures’ but who’s on top?”

Thursday, May 7: OPENING PANEL

4:30pm-6:30pm, followed by reception
Maxwell-Dworkin Auditorium, 33 Oxford Street


Joyce Chaplin

History, Harvard University

Evelyn Fox Keller


James McCarthy

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

Venky Narayanamurti

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Steven Shapin

History of Science, Harvard University

Laurence Tribe

Constitutional Law, Harvard University Professor

Friday, May 5: WORKSHOP

Bell Hall, Belfer Building, 79 JfK Street

9:00am :: Setting the Stage

Cultural Politics and the “Two Cultures” Controversy Controversy
Guy Ortolano (History, University of Virginia)

Another Culture? American Responses to Snow and Leavis
Andrew Jewett (History, Harvard University)

Chair: Sheila Jasanoff (STS, Harvard Kennedy School)

10:30am :: Science in/and Culture

Science Is/As Culture
Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology, MIT)

Icons and Mentors
Tom Levenson (Writing & Humanistic Studies, MIT)

Anthropology as an Unruly Discipline
Lucy Suchman (Sociology, Lancaster University)

Chair: Joseph Herman (Chemistry, Harvard University)

12:15pm :: Mediating Science, Appropriating Culture

Uses and Abuses of Snow in the Public Sphere
Peter Dizikes (Journalist and Writer)

1:00pm :: Science, Law, Medicine

Judicial Science: An Oxymoron?
Anthony Z. Roisman (National Legal Scholars Law Firm)

Cloning Cultures: Snow to Varmus, with Commentary by Harkin and Shelley
George Annas (Boston University School of Public Health)

Ordering the Wild Frontier: The Cultures of the Internet
Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard Law School)

Images, Logics, and Cultures of Reason
Sheila Jasanoff (STS, Harvard Kennedy School)

Chair: Andrew Lakoff (Sociology, UC Berkeley)

2:30pm :: Science and Public Life

C.P. Snow and the Moralization of the Scientist: Alchemist, Magus and Shaman?
Helen Haste (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

The Climate in Congress
Dan Schrag (Harvard Center for the Environment)

The Other Two Cultures: East, West, and “Scientific Manpower”
David Kaiser (STS, MIT)

Chair: Alex Wellerstein (History of Science, Harvard University)

4:15pm :: Cultures in Common?

Science, Art, Politics
Peter Galison (History of Science, Harvard University)

Chair: Hélène Mialet (Anthropology, UC Berkeley)

William James and the Piranha
Rosamond Purcell (Photographer and Writer)