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Looking Forward


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About the Author

Jamie L. Pietruska is assistant professor of history at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.


"Jamie L. Pietruska is among the first historians to ask how ordinary people participated in the 'probabilistic revolution, ' modern science's reckoning with the unpredictable nature of the physical universe. Looking Forward paints a lively picture of the introduction of probabilistic reasoning into everyday life circa 1900. It reveals a culture of prediction that arose in the interstices where personal choices met the marketing of expert knowledge. Pietruska argues that scientists' quests to look into the future were shaped by popular demand. Concluding with a tour-de-force commentary on the predictive debacle of the 2016 presidential election, Looking Forward examines how and why Americans have come to rely on forecasts that regularly fail them."

--Deborah Coen, author of The Earthquake Observers "Jon Levy, University of Chicago"
"Looking Forward is an original and brilliant history of the culture of prediction in the rise of modern America. In a book deeply researched, beautifully written, and brimming with insight, Pietruska shows how Americans of all kinds first learned to forecast the future, but also to live with the inescapable condition of uncertainty in modern life. I know of no other book that integrates the cultural histories of capitalism, science, technology, and everyday life so well."-- "Jon Levy, University of Chicago"
"[Looking Forward] tells an enthralling story of how people coped with the uncertainty of the future in everyday life in the United States between the Civil War and World War I."-- "Business History Review"
"Nobody could have predicted the past two decades, even as market gurus, climatologists, and political pundits have been ignored or made some historically bad calls. Coming at a time of widespread despair over America's future, Jamie Pietruska's smart, concise, and fun book prompts valuable reconsiderations of how our national cravings for certainty have more often been a part of the problem than a path to solutions."
--Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America "Jon Levy, University of Chicago"
"Pietruska deftly fits her study into a fertile intellectual space where the history of science and the history of capitalism overlap, but Looking Forward will also speak to intellectual historians precisely because of the way she is attuned to the broader epistemic implications of her subject. . . . Although the book's subject is by nature relatively abstract, Pietruska confidently guides the reader toward a richly grounded examination of the reception of new ideas about markets, meteorology, and probability. . . This is a great benefit to the reader, and especially to the intellectual historian, who can learn much from Pietruska's ability to pluck relatively obscure figures from the archive and use them to demonstrate how large intellectual concerns translated into the intricate problems of the workaday world."-- "Society for US Intellectual History Book Review"

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