Simon Schaffer

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Simon Schaffer
Simon Schaffer 2015.JPG
Schaffer at a pub in Cambridge, UK, 2015
Born (1955-01-01) 1 January 1955 (age 68)
EducationVarndean Grammar School for Boys
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Harvard University
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Darwin College, Cambridge
Imperial College London
University of California, Los Angeles
ThesisNewtonian cosmology and the steady state (1980)

Simon J. Schaffer (born 1 January 1955)[1] is a historian of science, previously a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and was editor of The British Journal for the History of Science from 2004 to 2009.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Schaffer was born in Southampton in 1955. His family moved to Brisbane, Australia that same year, returning to the UK in 1965 to live in Brighton.[3] His father, Bernard, was an academic social scientist who was a professorial fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex from 1966 until his death in 1984.[4] Simon's mother, Sheila, who died in 2010, was a university librarian and Labour councillor who was Mayor of Brighton in 1995.[5]

Schaffer attended Varndean Grammar School for Boys in Brighton before studying Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, specialising in the history and philosophy of science in his final year.[3] While at Trinity, he captained the winning college team in the 1974 University Challenge. After completing his undergraduate degree, Schaffer went to Harvard University for a year as a Kennedy Scholar to study the history of science. He returned to Cambridge in 1976, and gained his PhD in 1980 with the thesis Newtonian cosmology and the steady state.[3][6][7]


Schaffer has taught at Imperial College London[when?] and the University of California, Los Angeles.[citation needed] Since 1985, he has been a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge. He has authored or co-authored numerous books, including Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life with Steven Shapin.[8] In addition to his work at Cambridge, he has been a presenter on the BBC,[9] in particular the series Light Fantastic broadcast on BBC Four in 2004.[10][11][12] He has been a regular contributor and reviewer for the London Review of Books.[13]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2005, Schaffer shared the Erasmus Prize with Steven Shapin for Leviathan and the Air-Pump. In 2013, he received the Sarton Medal, the most prestigious honor awarded by the History of Science Society, in recognition of his "lifetime of scholarly achievement". In 2018, he received the Dan David Prize.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Shapin, Steven; Schaffer, Simon (1985). Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the experimental life. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691178165.[14]
  • Schaffer, Simon; Pinch, Trevor; Gooding, David (1989). The uses of experiment: studies in the natural sciences. Cambridge England New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521337687.
  • Schaffer, Simon (1995). 'Accurate Measurement is an English Science,' The Values of Precision. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03759-0.
  • Schaffer, Simon (2009). The brokered world : go-betweens and global intelligence, 1770-1820. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications. ISBN 978-0881353747.


  1. ^ "Schaffer, Simon, 1955-". Library of Congress Name Authority File. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Past editors' favourite papers published during their time in office". The British Journal for the History of Science. 50 (2): 173–179. June 2017. doi:10.1017/S0007087417000061. ISSN 0007-0874. PMID 28438228.
  3. ^ a b c Macfarlane, Alan (17 November 2008), Harrison, Sarah (ed.), Interview of Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge
  4. ^ "Bernard Schaffer Collection". University of Bath. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  5. ^ Avis, Peter (18 March 2010). "Sheila Schaffer obituary". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Schaffer, Simon (1980). Newtonian cosmology and the steady state. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 216242434. EThOS
  7. ^ "Simon Schaffer". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  8. ^ Schaffer, Simon; Shapin, Steven (2011). Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (New in Paper). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15020-8.
  9. ^ "BBC Four - Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams".
  10. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Light Fantastic Simon Schaffer interview". Archived from the original on 28 December 2009.
  11. ^ Light Fantastic at IMDb
  12. ^ Simon Schaffer at IMDb
  13. ^ "Simon Schaffer · LRB". Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  14. ^ Hankins, Thomas L. (1986). "Review of Leviathan and the Air-Pump". Science. 232 (4753): 1040–1042. doi:10.1126/science.232.4753.1040. PMID 17759318.

External links[edit]