Carnegie Mellon University

Christopher Phillips

Christopher Phillips

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, History


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 history of statistics in medicine, tentatively titled Number Doctors: The Emergence of Biostatistics and the Reformation of Modern Medicine. It centers on a group of biostatisticians at the National Institutes of Health and their efforts to transform measures of causality and proof in medicine through the development of novel statistical measures. It is, in a sense, the prehistory of our current moment of "risky medicine" and "precision medicine," as well as of algorithms and artificial intelligence in medicine. This project investigates how and why medicine became a science of numbers.

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


Ph.D.: Harvard University, 2011


  • “Precision Medicine and its Imprecise History,” Harvard Data Science Review 2(1) [2020].
  • “NIH Statisticians and the Transformation of Medical Proof,” Viral Networks: Connecting Digital Humanities and Medical History, eds E. Thomas Ewing and Katherine Randall (VT Publishing, 2019).
  • Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (Princeton University Press, 2019)
  • "The Taste Machine: Sense, Subjectivity, and Statistics in the California Wine-World," Social Studies of Science 46/3 (2016): 461-481.
  • 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.

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
  • Thinking with Evidence
Department Member Since: 2015