Peter Galison

Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

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Black Hole

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
6pm - 7:30pm
Hayes 403

"Philosophy of the Shadow"

Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University, works at the intersection of physics, history and philosophy of science, and film. In his lecture, "Philosophy of the Shadow," Galison will address the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration's hunt for an objective image of a black hole, and its place in the centuries-long struggle to define and redefine what it means to make a reliable scientific image. 


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Peter Galison is the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1977, and in 1978, a Masters of Philosophy from Cambridge University. In 1983 he received his Ph.D. in theoretical high-energy physics and the history of science, also from Harvard. In 1997, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; he won a 1998 Pfizer Award for his 1997 Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics in the History of Science; in 1999 received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize; and in 2018 was awarded the Abraham Pais Award in the History of Physics. 

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, he is also a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society. His other books include How Experiments End (1987), Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003), and Objectivity (with Lorraine Daston, 2007). Galison has also partnered with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time” (2012), and the associated chamber opera “Refuse the Hour.” He co-directs Critical Media Practice (training a new generation of Ph.D. students to work with digital media) and the Film Study Center, both at Harvard.

In 2000, he began expanding into the documentary film sphere, with a film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, Ultimate Weapon: The H-Bomb Dilemma, with Pamela Hogan. With Robb Moss, he co-directed Secrecy (2008), on national security secrecy, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The two also co-directed a feature documentary, Containment (2015), about the need to guard radioactive materials (and warn the future) for the 10,000-year future. He is a co-founder of the Black Hole Initiative, an interdisciplinary center for the study of these most extreme objects. His current research is on the history and philosophy of black holes and, in a second project, on the changing relation of technology to the self.