About Michael McGovern

Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used statistics to make claims of discrimination in 1970s America, and how the relationship between rights and numbers became a flashpoint in political struggles over bureaucracy, race, and law.
Historian of data
Michael's website

NBN Episodes hosted by Michael:

Michael Rossi, "The Republic of Color: Science, Perception, and the Making of Modern America" (Chicago UP, 2019)

February 5, 2021

The Republic of Color

Michael Rossi
Hosted by Michael McGovern

The appreciation of color is considered universal among human societies, yet varies vastly according to cultural norms and material circumstances. In …

C. Besteman and H. Gusterson, "Life by Algorithms: How Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World" (U Chicago Press, 2019)

August 18, 2020

Life by Algorithms

C. Besteman and H. Gusterson
Hosted by Michael McGovern

How can we understand computerization as a social process? Life by Algorithms: How Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World (University of Chicago Press, …

Joshua Nall, "News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

August 6, 2020

News from Mars

Joshua Nall
Hosted by Michael McGovern

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing an awful lot about the fraught relationship between science and media. In his book, News from Mar…

Lee Vinsel, "Moving Violations: Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

April 30, 2020

Moving Violations

Lee Vinsel
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Cars are among our most ubiquitous technologies; one could say that the cultural lore of the postwar United States is written in tire marks. But as mu…

Christopher J. Phillips, "Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball" (Princeton UP, 2019)

January 29, 2020

Scouting and Scoring

Christopher J. Phillips
Hosted by Michael McGovern

The so-called Sabermetrics revolution in baseball that began in the 1970s, popularized by the book—and later Hollywood film—Moneyball, was supposed to…

J. Yates and C. N. Murphy, "Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

November 14, 2019

Engineering Rules

JoAnne Yates and Craig N. Murphy
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allo…

Jamie L. Pietruska, "Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

October 30, 2019

Looking Forward

Jamie L. Pietruska
Hosted by Michael McGovern

A fortune teller, cotton prophet, and a weather forecaster walk into a bar—probably a more common occurrence than you might think in the Gilded Age Un…

Lukas Engelmann, "Mapping AIDS: Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

April 17, 2019

Mapping AIDS

Lukas Engelmann
Hosted by Michael McGovern

What role do visual media play in establishing a medical phenomenon? Who mobilizes these representations, and to what end? In Mapping AIDS: Visual His…

Joy Lisi Rankin, "A People’s History of Computing in the United States" (Harvard UP, 2018)

February 19, 2019

A People’s History of Computing in the United States

Joy Lisi Rankin
Hosted by Michael McGovern

We know, perhaps too well, the innovation-centric history of personal computing. Yet, computer users were not necessarily microelectronics consumers f…

Caitlin C. Rosenthal, "Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management" (Harvard UP, 2018)

October 31, 2018

Accounting for Slavery

Caitlin C. Rosenthal
Hosted by Michael McGovern

The familiar narrative of American business development begins in the industrial North, where paternalistic factory owners, committed to a kind of Pro…

Andrew J. Hogan, "Life Histories of Genetic Disease: Patterns and Prevention in Postwar Medical Genetics" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2016)

September 13, 2018

Life Histories of Genetic Disease

Andrew J. Hogan
Hosted by Michael McGovern

How did clinicians learn to see the human genome? In Life Histories of Genetic Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), Andrew J. Hogan makes t…

Sabina Leonelli, "Data-Centric Biology: A Philosophical Study" (U Chicago Press, 2016)

July 27, 2018

Data-Centric Biology

Sabina Leonelli
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Commentators have been forecasting the eclipse of hypothesis-driven science and the rise of a new ‘data-driven’ science for some time now. Harkening b…

Joanna Radin, "Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

July 4, 2018

Life on Ice

Joanna Radin
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Whether through the anxiety of mutually assured destruction or the promise of decolonization throughout Asia and Africa, Cold War politics had a pecul…

Tara H. Abraham, "Rebel Genius: Warren S. McCulloch's Transdisciplinary Life in Science" (MIT Press, 2016)

May 11, 2017

Rebel Genius

Tara H. Abraham
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Fueling his bohemian lifestyle and anti-authoritarian attitude with a steady diet of ice cream and whiskey, along with a healthy dose of insomnia, War…

Helen Anne Curry, "Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth-Century America" (U Chicago Press, 2016)

May 8, 2017

Evolution Made to Order

Helen Anne Curry
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Nowadays, it might seem perplexing for the founder of a seed company to express the intention to "shock Mother Nature," or at least in bad taste. Yet,…

J. C. McKeown, "A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Healing Arts of Greece and Rome" (Oxford UP, 2017)

April 29, 2017

A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities

J. C. McKeown
Hosted by Michael McGovern

The back cover of J. C. McKeown's new book, A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities (Oxford University Press, 2017), is adorned not with review quote…

Colleen Derkatch, "Bounding Biomedicine: Evidence and Rhetoric in the New Science of Alternative Medicine" (U Chicago Press, 2016)

March 29, 2017

Bounding Biomedicine

Colleen Derkatch
Hosted by Michael McGovern

What makes for new science? What happens to the evidentiary basis of the medical profession when patients demand treatments beyond the range of their …

Susan E. Cayleff, "Nature's Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2016)

March 28, 2017

Nature's Path

Susan E. Cayleff
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Susan Cayleff's Nature's Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) offers a fascinating alternative to…

Robert Aronowitz, "Risky Medicine: Our Quest to Cure Fear and Uncertainty" (U Chicago Press, 2015)

December 9, 2016

Risky Medicine

Robert Aronowitz
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Statistics have been on the minds of more people than usual in the run-up and post-mortem of this past U.S. presidential election; some feel as though…

Robert Brain, "The Pulse of Modernism: Physiological Aesthetics in Fin-de-Siecle Europe (U Washington Press, 2015)

November 12, 2016

The Pulse of Modernism

Robert Brain
Hosted by Michael McGovern

"Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life," Oscar Wilde famously observed. Wilde's waning romanticism can be read in stark contrast with Niet…

Ronald R. Kline, "The Cybernetics Moment: Or, Why We Call Our Age the Information Age" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2015)

July 8, 2016

The Cybernetics Moment

Ronald R. Kline
Hosted by Michael McGovern

I like to think (it has to be!) of a cybernetic ecology where we are free of our labors and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothe…

Samuel Morris Brown, "Through the Valley of Shadows: Living Wills, Intensive Care, and Making Medicine Human" (Oxford UP, 2016)

June 29, 2016

Through the Valley of Shadows

Samuel Morris Brown
Hosted by Michael McGovern

Conversations about death during hospitalization are among the most difficult imaginable: the moral weight of a human life is suspended by stressful c…

Saul J. Weiner and Alan Schwartz, "Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care" (Oxford UP, 2016)

June 22, 2016

Listening for What Matters

Saul J. Weiner and Alan Schwartz
Hosted by Michael McGovern

When clinicians listen to patients, what do they hear? In Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care (Oxford UP, 2016), Sau…

Gabriel Mendes, "Under the Strain of Color: Harlem's Lafargue Clinic and the Promise of an Antiracist Psychiatry" (Cornell UP, 2015)

June 15, 2016

Under the Strain of Color

Gabriel Mendes
Hosted by Michael McGovern

In his 1948 essay, "Harlem is Nowhere," Ralph Ellison decried the psychological disparity between formal equality and discrimination faced by Blacks a…