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5 Things About Me: Professor of History Alan Rocke

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AAAS Fellow Alan Rocke is a historian of science who specializes in the history of chemistry, particularly in 19th- and 20th-century Germany, France and Great Britain. | Daniel Milner
Alan Rocke, Ph.D.
Bourne Professor of History and Distinguished University Professor
Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
 
Background: Alan Rocke is a historian of science who specializes in the history of chemistry, particularly in 19th- and 20th-century Germany, France and Great Britain. He has written dozens of articles and six books, including Image and Reality: Kekulé, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination and The Quiet Revolution: Hermann Kolbe and the Science of Organic Chemistry. He previously served as chair of AAAS's Section on History and Philosophy and received a lifetime achievement award from the American Chemical Society. This summer Rocke was featured on the PBS series, "The Matter of Mystery: Search for the Elements," and served as a historical adviser for the series.  
 
Question 1: Share a story from your past that led to you choosing your field of work.
Answer: As a boy growing up near Chicago, I was always a "science kid," and I loved going to the Museum of Science and Industry. At 18 I was thrilled to get a summer job as a "demonstrator" there. This gig provided wonderful experience in presenting science and technology to the general public and gave me a taste for teaching. 
 
Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: Both in my courses and in my historical research, I strive to show how science develops in a complex combination of social context, human creativity, and careful empirical research. To me, this portrays science in a realistic and appealing way, much more so than science textbooks suggest.
 
Question 3: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical, science-related issue—preferably one not associated with your own field.
Answer: I think that if people had a greater understanding and appreciation about how science actually works, there would be fewer "controversies" over such issues as evolution and global climate change.
 
Question 4: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I enjoy travel and I love trying different kinds of foods. I am fortunate that my historical research requires me to do both (I also teach a course in food history!).
 
Question 5: If you could have one day in another profession, what would you want to do?
Answer: I would love to be a simultaneous translator at the United Nations.
 
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AAAS Fellow Alan Rocke is a historian of science who specializes in the history of chemistry, particularly in 19th- and 20th-century Germany, France and Great Britain. | Daniel Milner
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