Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War

Andrew Jewett

Harvard, History

February 19, 2013, 4:30pm-7:00pm
Robinson Hall, Basement Seminar Room


Book discussion followed by a reception.


Theodore Porter


Sheila Jasanoff

Harvard, STS

Charles Rosenberg

Harvard, History of Science

Andrew Jewett’s recent book reinterprets the rise of the natural and social sciences as sources of political authority in modern America. In it, he demonstrates the remarkable persistence of a belief that the scientific enterprise carried with it a set of ethical values capable of grounding a democratic culture – a political function widely assigned to religion. The book traces the shifting formulations of this belief from the creation of the research universities in the Civil War era to the early Cold War years. It examines hundreds of leading scholars who viewed science not merely as a source of technical knowledge, but also as a resource for fostering cultural change. This vision generated surprisingly nuanced portraits of science in the years before the military-industrial complex and has much to teach us today about the relationship between science and democracy.