CORVALLIS, Ore. – Is local food tastier than food from far-away places? Is it preferable on ethical grounds? Is it healthier? How old is this preference for eating locally?

Steven Shapin, the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, discusses these and other questions in his lecture “Eating Good in the Neighborhood: The Medical and Moral History of Dietary Localism.” It begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, in the LaSells Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus.

This is the last of seven lectures in the 2007-08 lecture series, “Food for Thought: History, Technology, Gastronomy,” organized by the OSU Horning Endowment in the Humanities in collaboration with the Outreach in Biotechnology Program.

Shapin notes that Oxford University Press anointed "locavore" the 2007 Word of the Year. The word was created in 2005 by some San Franciscans who thought it a good idea to eat only foods produced within a 100-mile radius. In their view, humans should be locavores because it is good for the palate and good for the planet.

His lecture explores how medical and moral traditions from antiquity to recent times have thought about local and exotic diets and reflects on changing conceptions of the self and the place of food in our lives.

Shapin completed his undergraduate degree at Reed College and his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Shapin taught at the University of California at San Diego and at the University of Edinburgh.

His research interests include historical and contemporary studies of dietetics, the nature of entrepreneurial science, and modern relations between academia and industry. He writes regularly for the London Review of Books and recently for The New Yorker.

His books include: “Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life,” and “Wetenschap is cultuur” (Science is Culture), both written with Simon Schaffer. Shapin’s newest book, “The Life of Science: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation,” will come out on University of Chicago Press in September 2008.

Shapin’s awards include the J. D. Bernal Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science, the Robert K. Merton Prize of the American Sociological Association , and, with Simon Schaffer, the 2005 Erasmus Prize, conferred by HRH the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, for contributions to European culture, society, or social science.

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview in April 2007 with Steven Shapin can be found online at

Events are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the History Department at 541-737-8560 or visit

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Elissa Curcio