College of Letters & Science professor awarded prestigious Siebel Chair

June 7, 2016

Professor Cathryn Carson

Professor Cathryn Carson

UC Berkeley leadership announced yesterday the appointment of Cathryn Carson, Associate Professor in the Department of History, to the Thomas M. Siebel Presidential Chair in the History of Science.  Carson will be the inaugural holder of the chair, created by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation to “recognize and support scholarly and research activities of an outstanding [Berkeley] faculty member in the History of Science.”  

Mr. Siebel, founder and Chief Executive Officer of C3 IoT, is a technology entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of Siebel Systems, one of the world's leading software companies, which merged with Oracle in 2006. He is the chairman of the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, a nonprofit, public benefit corporation that funds education and research programs, projects to support the homeless and underprivileged, public health, and alternative energy solutions.

“I am truly grateful for my selection to this distinguished chair and honored to be associated with Mr. Siebel and his renown as a corporate and philanthropic visionary,” said Carson.

One of the foremost historians of modern physics and an academic leader in the areas of data science and nuclear engineering, Carson said the chair  will allow her to further not only her own research “but also Berkeley’s long tradition at the forefront of teaching and research in the history of science.” 

Carson is the author of Heisenberg in the Atomic Age (2010: Cambridge University Press) as well as a substantial corpus of published articles. She is co-editor of multiple books, including Reappraising Oppenheimer (2005: Berkeley), Weimar Culture and Quantum Mechanics (2011: Imperial College Press), and Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident (2014: Springer), and served for five years as Chair of the Editorial Board of Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences.

Her current projects include a book in preparation on the philosopher Martin Heidegger and theoretical physics; an ethnographic study of data science at Berkeley; ongoing collaborations with engineers around nuclear engineering and engineering ethics; and the history of probabilistic risk assessment in nuclear waste management.  

The chair of the faculty committee that recommended Carson’s appointment to the Siebel Presidential Chair stated that “Carson’s biggest contribution to the university is in the way she combines research, service, and teaching.”  Indeed, she was recently honored (2015) by her election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; as a teacher (2014) with the Carol D. Soc Award for Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring; and for service (2014) with the Distinguished Service Award from the Division of Social Sciences. 

Appointed as an assistant professor in Berkeley’s history department in 1996, Carson advanced to associate rank in 2003.  She served for ten years as the Director of the Office for History of Science and Technology before becoming Associate Dean of the Division of Social Sciences (2010-2014), Operational Lead and Interim Director of D-Lab, the Social Sciences Data Laboratory (2012-2014), Co-Chair of the Chancellor’s and Provost’s Data Sciences Education Rapid Action Team (2014), and Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board for the Data Science Planning Initiative (2015-present).