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Dean's Centennial Seminar Series Presents Ken Alder

The McCormick School of Engineering Dean's Centennial Seminar Series welcomes Ken Alder, professor of history and the Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, who will speak Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. in the ITW classroom at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center at Northwestern University.

Alder, who directs the Science in Human Culture Program and studies the history of science and technology in the context of social and political change, will give a talk titled, "The Measure of All Things: How Technical Standards Came to Rule the World."

Alder's first book, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France (Princeton 1997) examined the relationship between science, technology, and politics in the era of the French Revolution. It won the 1998 Dexter Prize of the Society for the History of Technology.

His second book, The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World (New York and London, 2002) tells the story of the two astronomers who were charged during the French Revolution with the task of measuring 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.

Most recently, Alder published The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (New York, 2007), an examination of how science has (and has not) contributed to American justice. He is currently working on a project titled "The Forensic Self," a history of the sciences of identification from the Renaissance to the genome. For this project he has won grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the American Philosophical Society.

Alder was born and raised in 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).