Rockefeller Bureaucracy and Circumknowing Science in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Michael Barany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines evaluation principles and techniques and their associated bureaucratic practices from the early decades of Rockefeller science philanthropy. I characterize the distinctive kinds of expertise about science that such philanthropy presumed and cultivated based on analyses of, first, documents connected to interventions in European and South American mathematics and, second, a 1946 handbook prepared by Warren Weaver to guide new programme officers. Rockefeller officers developed elaborate infrastructures for understanding and intervening in the personal and institutional conditions of scientific investigation, while deliberately diverting attention away from the particulars of the science they supported. Their approach, indicative of operating strategies and assumptions for scientific funding bodies in this period, shaped access and authority across the major enterprises of late modern science, defining both what science and which scientists could benefit from new resources and opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal for History, Culture and Modernity
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2019


  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • philanthropy
  • expertise
  • bureaucracy
  • mathematics
  • grant administration


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