Christopher Phillips Appointed Head of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of History

Christopher Phillips , a professor of history, will be the next head of the Department of History in Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Phillips succeeds Nico Slate , who has served as department head since 2020 and will step down on June 30.

"I am enormously grateful to Nico Slate for leading the History Department through the COVID crisis, for advancing the department generally and for being a wonderful colleague," said Dietrich College’s Bess Family Dean Richard Scheines. "Chris is an eminent historian of science, an interdisciplinary scholar who collaborates easily with other departments in Dietrich and across the university, and I love his vision for the future."

Phillips will take parental leave in fall 2024 and begin his tenure as department head on January 1, 2025. After Slate steps down this summer, Allyson Creasman , an associate professor of history, will act as interim head.

"I am grateful for the support Dean Scheines has shown the department of history, and I am excited about the future of a department that has long incorporated Dietrich College’s strengths in both the humanities and the social sciences," Phillips said. "As recent events keep reminding us, there is a huge need for more understanding of the history of political conflicts, the lingering effects of migration and racism, and the ways everyday people have responded to an increasingly technological and often dehumanized contemporary world."

CMU’s History Department is known for its approach to making connections between the past and the present and for showing how history helps explain social, cultural and political change. The department offers three undergraduate programs: bachelor’s in social and political history ; bachelor’s in global studies ; and bachelor’s in ethics, history and public policy (joint with the Department of Philosophy ). The department’s doctoral program is based around the social history of science and the environment, connecting the department’s strengths in social and political movements as well as in science, technology and the environment.

Phillips joined the History Department in 2015 and has served as its director of graduate studies.

His research and teaching focus on the history of science in modern America, particularly the spread of mathematical and statistical methods. He is the author of "The New Math: A Political History" and "Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball."

Phillips’ current project is a book on the history of statistics in medicine, asking why and how clinical medicine became a science of numbers. The book will center on a group of biostatisticians "and their efforts to transform measures of causality and proof in medicine through the development of novel statistical measures from the 1930s to the 1970s." In 2020-21, Phillips conducted research for the project as a National Library of Medicine Michael E. DeBakey Fellow in the History of Medicine and at the American Philosophical Society as a Leon and Joanne V.C. Knopoff Fellow.

Phillips graduated with his Ph.D. in history of science from Harvard University in 2011. Previously, Phillips received a master’s in history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine from the University of Cambridge. Before joining CMU, he taught as an assistant professor and Faculty Fellow at New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

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