Ellen Bales

Post-Doctoral Fellow
Program on Science, Technology & Society
Harvard Kennedy School

Ellen Bales, Napa Valley, photo by Alex Wellerstein

I am a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Program on Science, Technology & Society at the Harvard Kennedy School. I received my Ph.D. from the History Department at the University of California, Berkeley where my major field was history of science.

My dissertation, filed in May 2009, is on the history of risk assessment in the United States, which used case studies on exposures to radon in uranium mines in the 1950s and 1960s and in suburban homes in the 1980s to explore shifts in how risk was conceptualized, managed, and articulated from the mid- to the late 20th century.

My general research interests are U.S. science during the Cold War, risk and risk assessment in 20th-century America, regulatory science in the U.S., the nuclear establishment in the U.S., and environmental history. During my tenure in graduate school, I have been fortunate enough to teach not only at Berkeley, but also at Harvard and MIT.

Before I was an historian, I was a college counselor and a class dean at a private school in New York City. Before that, I did admissions and financial aid for Columbia University and the University of Chicago. I recently married Alex Wellerstein, a graduate student in History of Science at Harvard University. Our dog, Shelley, is a former stray from Queens. She was acquired by me shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks to serve as a consolation dog. She has fulfilled her role admirably for eight years.


Curriculae Vitae

Education
2004-2009 Ph.D., History of Science, University of California, Berkeley
Dissertation: An element of uncertainty: Radon and the quantification of risk in 20th-century America, 1945-2000
Advisor: Cathryn Carson
2002-2004 M.A., History of Science, University of California, Berkeley
1986-1990 A.B. with Special Honors, English Language and Literature, University of Chicago

Qualifying exams
May 2005 Oral Examinations for the Doctorate in History:
  • History of Science in the U.S., Russia and the Soviet Union, and Germany
    (Cathryn Carson);
  • History of Public Health and Medicine (John Lesch);
  • Late Modern European History (Margaret Anderson);
  • European Intellectual History (Martin Jay);
  • Philosophy of Science (Branden Fitelson)

Academic appointments
Fall 2009 Teaching Fellow, Harvard University—Environmental Politics (Sheila Jasanoff)
Thesis Advisor, Harvard University, History of Science Department
Spring 2009 Teaching Assistant, Massachusetts Institute of Technology—Einstein, Oppenheimer, Feynman: Physics in the 20th Century (David Kaiser)
Teaching Assistant, Harvard University—History of Science Sophomore Tutorial (Janet Browne)
Fall 2008 Teaching Assistant, Massachusetts Institute of Technology—Disease and Society in America (Slava Gerovitch)
Spring 2008 Teaching Assistant, Harvard University—The Darwinian Revolution (Janet Browne)
Spring 2005 Graduate Student Instructor, University of California, Berkeley—Children through History: Social Practices and Social Welfare (Paula Fass)
Spring 2004 Graduate Student Instructor, University of California, Berkeley—Science, Technology, and Society since Newton (Jack Lesch)

Work experience
2000-2002 Class Dean and Faculty Advisor, Trinity School, Upper School Division, New York, NY
1997-2002 Associate Director of College Counseling, Trinity School, Upper School Division, New York, NY
1995-1997 Director of Visiting Undergraduate Students Program and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Columbia University, New York, NY
1993-1995 Assistant Director of Financial Aid, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Chicago, IL
1991-1993 Assistant Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, University of Chicago, The College, Chicago, IL

Awards and Honors
Spring 2009 Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University
2007-2008 National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant
2007-2008 Quinn Foundation Graduate Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
Summer 2007 Science, Technology, and Society Center Grant, University of California, Berkeley
Summer 2006 Graduate Division Summer Grant, University of California, Berkeley
Spring 1990 Phi Beta Kappa Member, Elected June 4, 1990

Publications

"The glowing deep," Review of Jacob Darwin Hamblin, Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age, in Endeavour 33 (2009): 41-42.

"From Calamity Mesa to Boyertown, Pennsylvania: Risk, radon, and regulation in Cold War America," IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 27, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 25-31.

Review of Doug Brugge, Timothy Benally, and Esther Yazzie-Lewis, eds. The Navajo People and Uranium Mining, in Mining History Journal, forthcoming.

Review of Theodore M. Porter, Karl Pearson: The scientific life in a statistical age, in Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences 35, no. 1 (2004): 171-172.

Review of Leah Ceccarelli, Shaping science with rhetoric: The cases of Dobzhansky, Schrödinger, and Wilson, in Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences 34, no. 1 (2003): 200-201.

Review of Richard Polenberg ed., In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: The security clearance hearing, in Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences 33, no. 2 (2003): 411.


Talks

"Uranium mining and the American frontier," guest lecture given in Einstein, Oppenheimer, Feynman: Physics in the 20th Century, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, April 9, 2009.

"Risk, regulation, and public health in 19th-century America," guest lecture given in Disease and Society in America, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, November 13, 2008.

"Nuclear images, nuclear imaginaries, nuclear fears: Cultural history beyond 'the public,'" paper presented at the History of Science Society Annual Meeting as part of the panel "Physics, History, and Beyond: Seeing the World through Spencer Weart's Eyes," November 8, 2008.

"Working Levels, working knowledge: Indoor radon and the Environmental Protection Agency," paper presented at the STS Circle, Harvard Kennedy School, April 21, 2008.

"An ounce of prevention: Risk, danger, and public health in American uranium mining, 1950-1970," paper presented at the American Society for Environmental History Conference as part of the panel "Nuclear Industrial Complex: Changing Perceptions of Risk and Danger to Health and the Environment during the Cold War, 1950-1970," March 13, 2008.

"About as safe as you make it: Risk, rhetoric, and practice in American uranium mining, 1950-1970," paper presented at the History of Science Society Annual Meeting as part of the panel "Government and the Earth Sciences," November 2, 2007.

"Uranium mining and miners," guest lecture given in History 100: Nuclear Berkeley, Nuclear World, University of California, Berkeley, October 3, 2007.

"From Calamity Mesa to Boyertown, Pennsylvania: Risk, radon, and regulation in Cold War America," paper presented at the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), June 1, 2007 and at the History of Science Society Annual Meeting, November 3, 2006.

"The Manhattan Project and the science of radioactivity," guest lecture given in History 30B: Science and Society, University of California, Berkeley, April 16, 2007.

"Risk, radon, and regulation in Cold War America," paper presented at the Ivory Tower Working Group, Harvard University, October 31, 2006.


Personal
Spouse: Alex Wellerstein
Canine: Shelley