Integrated Studies Program Teaching Fellow

175 Cohen Hall


Ph.D., History of Science, Princeton

MPhil, History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge

B.A., Mathematics and English, Penn

David E. Dunning is a historian of science and technology whose research focuses on the material and social dimensions of abstract knowledge. He aims to understand the embodied practices behind artifacts like computer programs and logic proofs, and how cultural contexts shape practices that are too often mistaken for neutral articulations of pure reason. His current book project is a history of two fundamental transformations in the study of logic, as it was first reconstructed as a mathematical science and later as a theoretical foundation for computing. He approaches this story through the concrete writing techniques by which logicians represented logic on paper. By centering notations and their communities of users, he shows how the most abstract of sciences was rooted in the local milieus around an emerging transnational network of practitioners. Their work in logic was intertwined with commitments ranging from religious piety and masculinity to nationalism and anti-Semitism. His other ongoing projects explore gender and domesticity in the history of mathematics and the rise of the “language” metaphor in early computer programming.

Research Interests

History of computing, history of mathematics, gender and science, language and writing in scientific practice

Selected Work

“The Work of Writing Programs: Logic and Inscriptive Practice in the History of Computing,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 43, no. 4 (2021): 27–42. doi: 10.1109/MAHC.2021.3108557.

“The Logician in the Archive: John Venn’s Diagrams and Victorian Historical Thinking.” Journal of the History of Ideas 82, no. 4 (2021): 593–614. doi: 10.1353/jhi.2021.0034.

“‘Always Mixed Together’: Notation, Language, and the Pedagogy of Frege’s Begriffsschrift.” Modern Intellectual History 17, no. 4 (2020): 1099–131. doi: 10.1017/S1479244318000410.

Faculty Bookshelf