Christopher Phillips

Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: Harvard University, 2011
Department Member Since: 2015


Christopher Phillips's research and teaching revolve around the history of science in modern America. He is also interested in the history of education, and of science and math education in particular. His first book, The New Math: A Political History (Chicago, 2015) examines the rise and fall of the controversial "new math" curriculum against the changing politics of mid-century America. He shows that far from being insulated from politics, the teaching of mathematics was framed as, and understood as, a fundamentally political enterprise. Prof. Phillips is now working on two projects, both of which trace the rise of quantification and "data science" within 20th-century United States. The first is about the collection and curation of data in professional baseball, both as a way of predicting which prospects will succeed and as a way of determining successful strategies. It argues that data is not abstract or just "out there," but grounded concretely in specific technologies, and created only through the labor of many highly-trained individuals. The second project explores the replacement of biomedical causation with statistical correlation in modern understandings of medicine and health. Long used in epidemiological studies, statistical measures came into common use in clinical medicine in the mid-twentieth century, particularly around the effort to link smoking and cancer.

To read more about Christopher Phillips, please visit his website.

Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (Princeton University Press, in production)
"Knowing By Number: Learning Math for Thinking Well," Endeavour 41/1 (March 2017): 8-11.
"The Taste Machine: Sense, Subjectivity, and Statistics in the California Wine-World," Social Studies of Science 46/3 (2016): 461-481.
"Mathematical Superpowers: The Politics of Universality in a Divided World," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 46/5 (2016): 549-555 [with Ksenia Tartarchenko]. Co-editor for this special issue on Cold War mathematics.
The New Math: A Political History (University of Chicago Press, 2015)
"An Officer and a Scholar: West Point and the Invention of the Blackboard," History of Education Quarterly 55 (Feb. 2015): 82-108.
"The New Math and Midcentury American Politics," Journal of American History 101 (Sept. 2014): 454-479.

Courses Taught

History of Education in America
From Newton to the Nuclear Bomb: History of Science, 1750-1950
Medicine and Society
Moneyball Nation: Data in American Life

Contact Info

Department of History
Baker Hall 235-C
P: 412.268.1753
F: 412.268.1019