Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Georgetown University
Website URL
History of science, History of measurement, History of science in Germany, History of science and technology in Prussia, History of science education, History of the Atomic Age, European Intellectual History
Additional Contact Information
Always available through email. Prefer questions via email.

Personal Info

About Me

Kathryn Olesko is a historian of modern science whose main research interests are in measuring practices, science pedagogy, science and engineering in Germany (especially Prussia), and comparative nuclear cultures.

Her honors include the Dibner Distinguished Fellowship at the Huntington Library, Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and several fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other foundations. In 1998 she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science “for contributions to scholarship and teaching in the history of science and for leadership in AAAS and the History of Science Society.” In 2016 she was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society ”for foundational contributions to the history of physics pedagogy and prolific editorial work in service of the history of science.” She was awarded the 2016 Georgetown College Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is currently a member of a Working Group on the History of Bureaucratic Knowledge at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

She has held several administrative positions at Georgetown including Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and founding Co-Director of the Center for the Environment. She is Past Editor of Osiris and Past Associate Editor of Isis, the two major American journals for the history of science. Since 2015 she has been co-convener with Joseph Martin of University of Cambridge of the online monthly seminar of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Physical Sciences Working Group which hosts recent work in the history of the physical sciences and related areas. She is also currently a book review editor for H-SciMedTech.

At Georgetown for most of her career, she also has taught at Clarkson University, Cornell University, and Princeton University. She currently teaches courses in the history of science (HIST 209:The Atomic Age, HIST 807: Comparative Nuclear Cultures and STIA 479: Senior Seminar (Security Concentration), and HIST 348: Art, Science, & Technology in the Renaissance); the foundation course for the major in Science Technology & International Affairs (STIA 305); and Global History on the theme of Exploration from the Out of Africa migration to the Iberian Ascendency (HIST 007). She maintains that using scientific evidence in history–a component of all of her courses–requires a critical perspective on how those findings were attained as well as an assessment of their  certainty.

Recent Publications


“Germany,” in The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 8, Modern Science in National, Transnational, and Global Contexts, ed. Hugh Richard Slotten, Ronald L. Numbers, and David N. Livingstone (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).


“The Creation of Historical Effects,” Liber Amicorum for Jed Z. Buchwald (Pasadena, CA: 2019), 90-99.

“Coming to Terms with the Past: The Great Transition,” Isis 108 (2017): 841-45.

“Myth: That Science Has Been Largely a Solitary Enterprise,” Newton’s Apple and Other Myths About Science, ed. Ronald L. Numbers and Kostas Kampourakis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2015), 202-9, 265-66.
Translated into Spanish, Korean, and Chinese.

“Science Education in the Historical Study of the Sciences,” International Handbook of Research in History, Philosophy and Science Teaching, 3 vols., ed. Michael R. Matthews (Dordrecht: Springer, 2014), 3:1965-90.

“Physics and Metrology,” Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics, ed. Jed Z. Buchwald and Robert Fox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 698-718.

“Introduction: Clio Meets Science—The Challenges of History,” Osiris 27 (2012): 1-16 (with Robert E. Kohler).

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Germany and US
Expertise by Geography
Germany, United States
Expertise by Chronology
17th century, 18th century, 19th century, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Science, Technology