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December 10, 1998

2 affiliated with Pitt center win top philosophy of science award

Two members of Pitt's Center for Philosophy of Science fellowship, professors Deborah Mayo of Virginia Tech and Jeffrey Bub of the University of Maryland, have jointly won the highest honor for published research in their field.

"It's often referred to as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in philosophy of science," center director James G. Lennox said of the Imre Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to philosophy of science in the form of a book published during the previous six years.

Mayo shared the 1998 Lakatos Award for her book, "Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge" (University of Chicago Press), which she began as a visiting fellow at Pitt in 1989. "Deborah is the first woman to win this award," Lennox said. "In a field where women have been extremely under-represented, this is significant." Bub and Mayo will split the Lakatos award money, equal to about $16,500. But Mayo said, "To me, the most important thing about winning this award is that it should encourage people to take seriously the notion that there are alternatives to the orthodox view of scientific methodology" – an orthodoxy that Mayo challenges in her book.

Mayo credited what she called "the stimulating environment and the many good conversations I've enjoyed" at Pitt's Center for Philosophy of Science for helping to inspire her research. "I'm no longer a fellow in residence [at Pitt] but I still visit the c enter about twice a year to consult with professors there, particularly Wesley Salmon and Adolf Grünbaum, and I attend [center-sponsored] conferences in Pittsburgh," she said.

Bub was honored for his book, "Interpreting the Quantum World" (Cambridge University Press), parts of which were first presented in his contribution to the Pitt center's 1993-94 lecture series, published in The Cosmos of Science, a volume in the Pittsburgh-Konstanz Series in Philosophy and History of Science.

"The group in philosophy of physics at Pitt's center is probably the best in the world," Bub said, "and my contact with them has been very important to my research in that area." Bub said he collaborates closely with Pitt's Robert Clifton and other profes sors at the Center for Philosophy of Science, e-mailing them frequently and occasionally visiting Pittsburgh for conferences.

The Lakatos Award was created in 1974 in memory of Imre Lakatos, a professor of logic at the London School of Economics who died that year. Lakatos fled Hungary after the Soviets crushed the 1956 uprising, eventually joining the LSE faculty in 1960.

Among the award's previous winners is John Earman, University Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Pitt and a resident fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science.

An international committee, chaired by the LSE director and including Grünbaum of Pitt, bestows the award based on the advice of an anonymous and independent international panel.

Spiro Latsis, one of Lakatos's former students, endows the award. Latsis also supports the biennial Athens-Pittsburgh Symposium in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, a joint undertaking of Pitt's Center for Philosophy of Science, the University of Athens and the National Technical University of Athens.

– Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 8

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