School of Social and Political Science

Dr Michael Barany

Job Title

Senior Lecturer in the History of Science

Photograph of Michael Barany
Personal website
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Room number


Building (Address)

Chisholm House

Street (Address)

High School Yards

City (Address)


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Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

History of mathematics, History of science, History of the exact sciences, Sociology of knowledge, Cultural studies of science and technology.

Research Overview

I study the relationship between abstract knowledge and the modern world. Combining historical, sociological, and other methods, I investigate how people produce such knowledge; how it derives from their social, political, and other contexts; and how they use that knowledge to shape those contexts in turn.

This topic has taken me to a wide range of subjects over the years, from dots and diagrams in sixteenth-century books, to mathematical rigor in the wake of the French Revolution, to Victorian anthropologists' attempts to understand the farthest reaches of prehistory by asking how civilizations learn to count, all the way to present-day mathematicians' efforts to collaborate using technologies as grand as the Internet and as mundane as chalk and blackboards. My main current project concerns the globalization of modern mathematics.

For more about my research, please visit my website,

Current Projects

I am working on a variety of projects related to the modern global history of mathematics, as well as mathematical, numerical, and algorithmic thinking in social and historical context. While developing theoretical and critical perspectives on these topics, I am also interested in their implications for education, policy, and public understanding. My research methods include archival history (especially institutional and academic archives), historiography, and close reading of published and archival sources.

Major current externally funded projects include:

Situating International and Global Mathematics (UKRI Frontier Research ERC Guarantee award)

Future Public Understanding of Mathematics (RSE Joint International Projects award with University of Toronto)

PhD Topics

Please be in touch if you would potentially like to work with me as your PhD supervisor! In general terms, you might be interested in working with me if you aim to study any of these topics: history, sociology, and cultural studies of modern mathematical and physical sciences; scientific institutions, internationalism, and globalisation; quantification, abstraction, algorithms, and society; historiography of science and mathematics.

My research postgraduate students are probably enrolled in one of the following:


Raised in Minnesota, USA, in a family of scientists, I studied mathematics and its history and sociology at Cornell University (AB, 2008); the history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge (MPhil, 2009); science & technology studies at the University of Edinburgh (MSc, 2010); and the history of science at Princeton University (PhD, 2016). From 2016 to 2018 I was a member of the Dartmouth College (USA) Society of Fellows, and then briefly held a US National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship before beginning my lectureship at Edinburgh in late 2018.

You can read more about my background and work at

Undergraduate Teaching

STIS08005 / STIS08011: History of Science (pre-honours)

STIS10015: Topics in the History of Modern Science and Medicine

Postgraduate Teaching

Science Historiography Clinic (University of Edinburgh and Scottish Graduate School of Social Science)

History of Mathematics (Scottish Mathematical Sciences Training Centre), next expected offering 2023-24

Responsible Research in the Mathematical Sciences training (Maxwell Institute Graduate School and other UK programmes and centres for doctoral training)

Foundations of Responsible Research and Innovation in Biomedicine and AI (co-convened 2021, ongoing guest lectures)


Please see for links to my publications.

Staff Hours and Guidance

By appointment. Please email with your aims for the meeting, availability, and in-person vs online preference.