Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, and Director of Research Projects at the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
Area of Research: Scholar of Victorian European and American intellectual history as well as the history of science who also explores—and tries to influence through theory, software, websites, and his blog—the impact of computing on the humanities.
Education: Ph.D. in History, Yale University, 1999
Major Publications: Cohen is the author of Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith. (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and co-author of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).
He has also published articles and book chapters on the history of mathematics and religion, the teaching of history, and the future of history in a digital age in journals such as the Journal of American History, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Rethinking History, and include: “Reasoning and Belief in Victorian Mathematics,” in Martin Daunton, ed., The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain (Oxford University Press/The British Academy, 2005); “By the Book: Assessing the Place of Textbooks in U.S. Survey Courses,” Journal of American History 91 (March 2005), among others.
Cohen is currently working on a book project tentatively entitled Digital Scholarship: Theory & Practice.
Awards: Cohen is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
George Mason University Faculty Fellowship, 2007-8;
American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship, 2006-7 (inaugural recipient);
George Washington Egleston Prize, awarded for “Symbols of Heaven, Symbols of Man: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Religion,” 1999;
Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1996-1997 Whiting Dissertation Fellowship winner, 1996;
Pew Charitable Trusts Fellowship, 1996;
Mellon Dissertation Research Fellowship, 1996;
John F. Enders Grant, 1995-1996;
Yale University Fellowship, 1992-1997;
Harvard University Fellowship, 1990-1992;
Zotero 2.0 (zotero.org), funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, $890,000, Lead Primary Investigator, 2006-2008;
Zotero 1.0 (zotero.org), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, $250,000, Co-Primary Investigator, 2006-2007;
Echo 2 (echo.gmu.edu), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, $700,000, Co-Director, 2004-2008;
Hurricane Digital Memory Bank (hurricanearchive.org), funded by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, $250,000, Co-Director, 2006-2008;
Preserving the Record of the Dot-Com Era, funded by the Library of Congress’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, $143,000 (part of a larger grant to the University of Maryland), Director, 2006-2008;
Scholarly software for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment project, funded by NEH, $150,000, Co-Director, 2005-2007;
September 11 Digital Archive (911digitalarchive.org), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, $750,000, Co-Director, 2002-2004;
Echo: Exploring and Collecting History Online (echo.gmu.edu), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, $720,000, Co-Director, 2001-2004.
At the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University Cohen has co-directed, among other projects, the “September 11 Digital Archive” and “Echo,” and has developed software for scholars, teachers, and students, including the popular Zotero research tool.
He writes a blog; Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog: http://www.dancohen.org/
To spruce up a nondescript apartment tower that rises a few blocks from my home in Silver Spring, Maryland, the landlords hired a metalworker who spent several days channeling Frank Gehry to create an ambitious but rather impractical porous, upside-down archway in front of the building’s entrance. The new facade has become widely known, or at least widely known in my household, as the “Giant Hammock.” I know this because I live with two discerning architectural critics: my three-year-old twins, Eve and Arlo.
Eve and Arlo have many other shrewd insights, which they do not hesitate to share with anyone who will listen, as well as many who care not to. After witnessing me say several times that I was “going to work,” followed by a short trip across the room to my computer, they became quite sure that I do not actually work.
Perhaps they are right. Although I happen to think I work very hard on several fronts at once (writing, teaching, creating scholarly websites and software), given the relative freedom of my schedule compared to others (farmers, bakers, Paris Hilton paparazzi), I try to remind myself often that we academics are extraordinarily lucky.
And with good fortune comes responsibility. Combined with my kids’ insight that their daddy doesn’t work–“he types”–this sense of responsibility has led me to give away as much as I can. A couple of years ago I decided to start blogging much of what I know, and have since “typed” close to a book’s worth of content on my website. With the exception of my latest book, all of my publications are also freely available online, as are my digital research tools. It’s not all altruism, of course; that which is openly accessible on the Web also spreads the word more widely and rapidly about you and what you care about.
When I do leave the house and go to the university, I return to questions from Eve and Arlo not about “my work” (already established: Daddy doesn’t work), but about whether I “spoke to Roy” (Rosenzweig, my friend and collaborator at the Center for History and New Media) or “told stories to my students.”
My kids may not fully comprehend what I do, but they sense that I tell stories not unlike the ones in their picture books, and I try to keep the simplicity of that notion in mind. Because I often write about highly technical topics–the complexity of the twenty-first century digital realm or the nuances of nineteenth-century mathematics–I always put extra effort into my “typing” to avoid jargon or esoteric terms and to make sure that the sum is greater than the parts. If I’m lucky, I’m able to communicate the larger human expression behind a sequence of equations or lines of code.
Recently I was walking in downtown Silver Spring with Eve and Arlo. Arlo turned to Eve and said, “Look, Eve, it’s the Giant Hammock.” Eve looked carefully at the combination of abstract metal pieces and thought for a moment. She then turned to Arlo and responded, “No, Arlo, I think that’s a sculpture.”
By Daniel J. Cohen
About Daniel J. Cohen
“Dr. Cohen did an excellent job of organizing a tremendous amount of material into themes that made the history relevant and easy to understand.”
“Dr. Cohen is an exceptional professor who is incredibly bright and knowledgeable. He presented material from a broad range of disciplines. I LOVED the course.”
“Prof. Cohen was very good at explaining complicated and/or unfamiliar terms and scientific concepts and kind to those of use who were slow to understand them.”
“An outstanding speaker who encourages participation from all his students, and selects very interesting topics to discuss.”
“He was always available out of the classroom in order to help me with my paper. You can tell he really loves his students and takes pride in his position.” — Anonymous students