Carnegie Mellon University

Christopher Phillips

Christopher Phillips

Assistant Professor


Christopher Phillips's research and teaching focus on the history of science in modern America. His first book, The New Math: A Political History (Chicago, 2015) examines the rise and fall of the controversial "new math" curriculum against the changing politics of mid-century America. He shows that far from being insulated from politics, the teaching of mathematics was framed as, and understood as, a fundamentally political enterprise. His second book, Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (Princeton, 2019), uses the collection of data in professional baseball as a way of exploring the supposed distinction between objective, numbered knowledge and subjective, people knowledge. He argues that data of both kinds are neither abstract nor natural, but grounded in concrete technologies, and created only through the labor of many highly-trained individuals. Prof. Phillips is currently working on a book that will trace the replacement of biomedical causation with statistical correlation in modern medicine. Long used in epidemiological studies, statistical measures came into common use in clinical medicine in the mid-twentieth century, particularly around the effort to find new ways of talking about causes of cancer and heart disease. The project centers on a group of biometricians and biostatisticians at the National Institutes of Health who invented the tools that changed the way doctors, public health experts, and governmental agencies talked about health and disease.

To read more about Christopher Phillips, please visit his personal website »


Ph.D.: Harvard University, 2011


  • Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (Princeton University Press, in production)
  • "Knowing By Number: Learning Math for Thinking Well," Endeavour 41/1 (March 2017): 8-11.
  • "The Taste Machine: Sense, Subjectivity, and Statistics in the California Wine-World," Social Studies of Science 46/3 (2016): 461-481.
  • "Mathematical Superpowers: The Politics of Universality in a Divided World," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 46/5 (2016): 549-555 [with Ksenia Tartarchenko]. Co-editor for this special issue on Cold War mathematics.
  • The New Math: A Political History (University of Chicago Press, 2015)
  • "An Officer and a Scholar: West Point and the Invention of the Blackboard," History of Education Quarterly 55 (Feb. 2015): 82-108.
  • "The New Math and Midcentury American Politics," Journal of American History 101 (Sept. 2014): 454-479.

Courses Taught

  • History of Education in America
  • From Newton to the Nuclear Bomb: History of Science, 1750-1950
  • Medicine and Society
  • Moneyball Nation: Data in American Life

Department Member Since: 2015