112th: Matthew Jones on "Reckoning with Matter"
Please join us Thursday, February 23rd at 7pm for a conversation with Matthew Jones, author of Reckoning with Matter: Calculating Machines, Innovation, and Thinking about Thinking from Pascal to Babbage, and Anthony Grafton, author of Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West.
From Blaise Pascal in the 1600s to Charles Babbage in the first half of the nineteenth century, inventors struggled to create the first calculating machines. All failed but that does not mean we cannot learn from the trail of ideas, correspondence, machines, and arguments they left behind.
In Reckoning with Matter, Matthew L. Jones draws on the remarkably extensive and well-preserved records of the quest to explore the concrete processes involved in imagining, elaborating, testing, and building calculating machines. He explores the writings of philosophers, engineers, and craftspeople, showing how they thought about technical novelty, their distinctive areas of expertise, and ways they could coordinate their efforts. In doing so, Jones argues that the conceptions of creativity and making they exhibited are often more incisive and more honest than those that dominate our current legal, political, and aesthetic culture.
Matthew L. Jones is the James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization in the Department of History at Columbia University and the author of The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of ten books and the coauthor, editor, coeditor, or translator of nine others. Two collections of essays, Defenders of the Text (1991) and Bring Out Your Dead (2001), cover most of the topics and themes that appeal to him. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1993), the Balzan Prize for History of Humanities (2002), and the Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2003), and is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy.