Helen Verran

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Helen Verran is an Australian historian and empirical philosopher of science, primarily working in the Social Studies of Science and Technology (STS),[1] and currently Adjunct Professor at Charles Darwin University.[2]


Verran is from New South Wales, Australia (born c1945/6?). She trained as a scientist and teacher in the 1960s (BSc, DipEd, University of New England and has a PhD in metabolic biochemistry (UNE, 1972). She then spent eight years lecturing in science education at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, southwestern Nigeria. In the 1980s she became lecturer and later Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, working in a unit dedicated to the study of history and philosophy of science. She retired in 2012.[3] On retiring she became Adjunct Professor at the Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University in Darwin, NT, Australia where she still teaches.[4][5]


Numbers and Enumerated Entities[edit]

Verran is best known for her book, Science and an African Logic (University of Chicago Press, 2001), for which she received the Ludwik Fleck Prize in 2003. It analyses counting, and its relation to the ontology of numbers based on her lengthy field observations as a mathematics lecturer and teacher in Nigeria. The book draws on her sudden realisation of the radically different nature of Yoruba counting and discusses how this realisation grounded her post-relativist theorising.

Actor-network theory (ANT)[edit]

She contributed to actor-network theory, working with British sociologist John Law. Specifically, she is credited for contributing with postcolonial studies to nuancing STS.[6] Her work is also seen as part of ANT's ontological turn.[7]

Post-colonial STS[edit]

Her work on Yolngu Aboriginal Australians understandings of the world, their use of technology, and their knowledge systems ranges from the 1990s to current engagement.

Starting with work on alternative modes of knowing nature management through fire,[8] Verran's recent work contributed to social studies of ecosystem services.[9]


She was awarded US Ludwig Fleck Prize of the US Society for Social Studies of Science in 2003 for Science and an African Logic. (UniNews, Vol. 12, No. 2 24 February - 10 March 2003).



  1. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20181027123752/http://stsinfrastructures.org/content/helen-verran/essay
  2. ^ http://www.cdu.edu.au/the-northern-institute/helen-verran
  3. ^ http://www.findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/display/person13380
  4. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwfRyZRnqXc
  5. ^ http://vimeo.com/75547709
  6. ^ Pinboards and books: Juxtaposing, learning and materiality https://web.archive.org/web/20170112220113/http://heterogeneities.net/publications/Law2006PinboardsAndBooks.pdf
  7. ^ New ontologies? Reflections on some recent 'turns' in STS, anthropology and philosophy http://www.academia.edu/download/54964282/New_ontologies_SA.pdf
  8. ^ Verran, Helen (2002). "A Postcolonial Moment in Science Studies: Alternative Firing Regimes of Environmental Scientists and Aboriginal Landowners". Social Studies of Science. 32: 729–762. doi:10.1177/030631270203200506.
  9. ^ e.g. Verran, Helen (2012). "The changing lives of measures and values: from centre stage in the fading 'disciplinary' society to pervasive background instrument in the emergent 'control' society". The Sociological Review. 59: 60–72. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02059.x.