Dryer Named Tomash Fellow
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Dryer Named 2018-2019 Tomash Fellow

The Erwin and Adelle Tomash Fellowship for 2018-2019 was awarded to Theodora J. Dryer, a doctoral candidate in History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Dryer completed her MA in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds and has a BA from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, where she specialized in philosophy and history of science and mathematics. She has a recent Think Piece published with IEEE Annals of Computing titled “Algorithms under the Reign of Probability” and several manuscripts under review. Dryer has been actively presenting her research at a number of conferences, including the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), the History of Science Society (HSS), and the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S).

Her dissertation, Designing Certainty: The Rise of Algorithmic Computing in an Age of Anxiety, 1920-1960, will trace the history of a single data architecture, Jerzy Neyman’s Confidence Interval Parameter, from its origins in Polish agricultural planning shortly following WWI, to its implementation in a variety of transnational contexts through WWII and into the Cold War. Confidence Intervals initially facilitated mathematical decision-making by allowing for uncertainty and real-world limits to knowability, instead of being limited to yes-no outcomes. Along the way, Dryer will show how Confidence Intervals were integrated into various calculating machine technologies, elucidating the technical, political, and economic connections between early twentieth century computing machines and the rise of electronic memory-stored computers following WWII. Dryer will argue that understanding the logic and philosophy behind algorithms in the interwar period is critical for understanding late twentieth century computing.

Juliet Burba

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