Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize Awarded

Tamara Plakins Thornton recognized for her insightful biography Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers

Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers book coverThe MHS has announced that the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize will go to Tamara Plakins Thornton for her book Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers: How a 19th-Century Man of Business, Science, & the Sea Changed American Life, published in 2016 by The University of North Carolina Press. The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize is given to the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year. Thornton will receive the award at an event at the Society on January 25, 2018.

In Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers, Thornton achieves more than a biography of this compelling individual, a mathematician, navigator, astronomer, and businessman whom Thomas Jefferson called a "meteor in the hemisphere": she locates the origins of bureaucratic practices that have transformed American life. Bowditch is perhaps best known for his New American Practical Navigator, still in print today. Yet in quantitative science and mathematical calculations, Bowditch found a precision and certainty that gripped his imagination, and he wielded these tools to reform the operations of elite financial, literary, and scientific institutions, as well as Harvard University. We live with his legacy, as Thornton masterfully reveals, as we navigate the impersonal corporate milieu of the present day.

The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize selection committee received submissions that interpret the history of Massachusetts through an exciting range of subjects, from colonial history to political biography to 20th-century environmentalism. The submissions came from nearly a dozen academic, trade, and specialty publishers. "Rev. Peter Gomes was himself an accomplished scholar of early America, its personalities, and its institutions," commented MHS Director of Research Katheryn P. Viens. She continued, "Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Tamara Plakins Thornton's account of the enduring contributions of Nathaniel Bowditch is a most worthy recipient of the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize."

Tamara Plakins Thornton is Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is also the author of Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life among the Boston Elite, 1785-1860, published by Yale University Press in 1989, as well as Handwriting in America: A Cultural History, published by Yale University Press in 1996. Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers received the 2016 John Lyman Book Award of the North American Society for Oceanic History and was a 2017 finalist for the New England Society Book Award of the New England Society in the City of New York

 

About the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize

The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize, for the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year, honors the memory of a respected Harvard scholar and beloved Fellow of the MHS. Peter J. Gomes (1942-2011) was elected to the MHS in 1976 and joined the Board of Overseers in 2010. He was Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University.

Tamara Plakins Thornton recognized for her insightful biography Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers

BOSTON, November 1, 2017—The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) has announced that the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize will go to Tamara Plakins Thornton for her book Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers: How a 19th-Century Man of Business, Science, & the Sea Changed American Life, published in 2016 by The University of North Carolina Press. The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize is given to the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year. Thornton will receive the award at an event at the Society on January 25, 2018.

In Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers, Thornton achieves more than a biography of this compelling individual, a mathematician, navigator, astronomer, and businessman whom Thomas Jefferson called a “meteor in the hemisphere”: she locates the origins of bureaucratic practices that have transformed American life. Bowditch is perhaps best known for his New American Practical Navigator, still in print today. Yet in quantitative science and mathematical calculations, Bowditch found a precision and certainty that gripped his imagination, and he wielded these tools to reform the operations of elite financial, literary, and scientific institutions, as well as Harvard University. We live with his legacy, as Thornton masterfully reveals, as we navigate the impersonal corporate milieu of the present day.

The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize selection committee received submissions that interpret the history of Massachusetts through an exciting range of subjects, from colonial history to political biography to 20th-century environmentalism. The submissions came from nearly a dozen academic, trade, and specialty publishers. “Rev. Peter Gomes was himself an accomplished scholar of early America, its personalities, and its institutions,” commented MHS Director of Research Katheryn P. Viens. She continued, “Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Tamara Plakins Thornton’s account of the enduring contributions of Nathaniel Bowditch is a most worthy recipient of the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize.”

Tamara Plakins Thornton is Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is also the author of Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life among the Boston Elite, 1785-1860, published by Yale University Press in 1989, as well as Handwriting in America: A Cultural History, published by Yale University Press in 1996. Nathaniel Bowditch & the Power of Numbers received the 2016 John Lyman Book Award of the North American Society for Oceanic History and was a 2017 finalist for the New England Society Book Award of the New England Society in the City of New York

 

About the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize

The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize, for the best nonfiction work on the history of Massachusetts published during the preceding year, honors the memory of a respected Harvard scholar and beloved Fellow of the MHS. Peter J. Gomes (1942-2011) was elected to the MHS in 1976 and joined the Board of Overseers in 2010. He was Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University.

Upcoming Events

Brown Bag

Re-categorizing Americans: Difference, Distinction, and Belonging in the Dillingham Commission (1907 ...

22Aug 12:00PM 2018

This talk traces how the federal government surveyed immigrants in the early-20th century and how such attempts helped solidify the racial boundary-making for the nation ...

canceled Teacher Workshop

Education: Equality and Access

23Aug 9:00AM 2018
Registration fee: $35 per person

 This workshop has been POSTPONED.  Further information will be posted here when it is rescheduled. This program will investigate the history of education ...

Brown Bag

"A Brazen Wall to Keep the Scriptures Certainty": European Biblical Scholarship in Early America

24Aug 12:00PM 2018

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European scholars made significant advances in the historical and critical study of the Bible, often with highly ...

From our Blog

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, August 1918

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s previous entries, here:   January | February | March ...

Travel Without Moving : Adam Matthew Digital and the History of ...

As summer draws to its inevitable end, I am somewhat grateful (In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a hot one!) and somewhat wistful. Although I’ve been privileged to take several ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?