Graham Burnett


Living place: Princeton, USA

Theme: history and philosophy of science

ECC Participation: panel member

photo: private archive

A professor of history at Princeton and a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities. His research is focused above all on history and philosophy of science, but Burnett is also very interested in natural history, history of art and technology, environmental research, ecology, cartography and oceanography.

„Humanists are good at talking, at keeping questions alive and open.”

Burnett is fascinated by the power of science to explain reality and cause major changes in the world, like colonialism for example. This fascination drove him to closely analyze the development of science, its political and social impact and the influence it wields over civilization. Burnett is also a published author. His book, “Masters of All They Surveyed. Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado,” published in 2000, describes the exploration of Guyana, which served to reinforce the notions of British imperialism. Burnett also wrote “Trying Leviathan,” (2007) for which he received the New York City Book Award and the Hermalyn Prize for Urban History, a lively description of the dynamic development of biologic taxonomy systems at the turn of the 19th century. In the book, Burnett poses fundamental questions about order in nature and humanity’s domination over life on Earth. In another book, entitled “Trial by Jury,” Burnett combines an action plot with reflections of a humanist facing something seemingly as simple as justifiable doubt. While writing, he drew upon his own experiences as a jury foreman in a murder trial. His upcoming book, “Save the Whales? Science, Politics, and Conservation in the Twentieth Century” will describe the state of research, international policies and marine conservation efforts in the 20th century.

Burnett is the editor of the “Cabinet” quarterly, a magazine about both the mainstream and the fringes of culture. His latest research is focused on the interaction between art and cutting-edge technologies, especially in the case of fraud and forgery.

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