Historians of science Lorraine Daston (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin/University of Chicago) and Theodore Porter (University of California at Los Angeles/Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin)

will be exploring the impact of science on the literary imagination with readings from Mark Twain, George Elliott, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Darwin, Michael Frayn, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and other writers captivated by the world-changing potential of science and technology.

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her work addresses how standards of rationality develop historically through concrete scientific practices such as observation, image-making, and archiving. Recent publications include (co-edited with Elizabeth Lunbeck), Histories of Scientific Observation (2011) and (with Paul Erikson et al), How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality (2013). She is currently working on a book about the history of rules.

Theodore Porter is a historian of science at the University of California, Los Angeles and, this year, a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His books include Trust in Numbers and Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age. With Lorraine Daston he is among the coauthors of The Empire of Chance, or, in German translation, Das Reich des Zufalls. He is finishing a book about how insane asylums became important sites of data and research on human heredity.


Established in 2010, The Berlin Sofa is a series where Berlin-based celebrities from English-language countries read from the works of their favorite authors.