About

Adrian Johns is a professor in the Department of History and chairs the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, and the forthcoming Death of a Pirate. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (University of Chicago Press, 1998), won the Leo Gershoy Award of the American Historical Association, the John Ben Snow Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies, the Louis Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the SHARP Prize for the best work on the history of authorship, reading and publishing.

Adrian has also published widely in the history of science and the history of the book. Educated in Britain at the University of Cambridge, Professor Johns has taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of California, San Diego, and the California Institute of Technology.

Adrian’s future projects include:

Death of a Pirate: British Broadcasting and the Origins of the Information Age. A book centering on a shooting in 1960s Britain that brought to a head the challenge of pirate radio stations to the public broadcasting monopoly held by the BBC. The book examines the politics of broadcasting and public authority that lay behind the incident, and outlines the role of pirate media in the emergence of neoliberalism, with connections to today’s digital culture. It is currently in copyediting, and will appear with W.W. Norton in late 2010.

Pharmacopoeias: print, authenticity, and modernity. A project now in its early stages on half a millennium of efforts to police the identity of substances (medicaments, foods, colors, etc.) by deploying the power of print. The hypothesis is that pharmacopoeias, the genre of works that sought to guarantee substances by fixing their formulae in print, pose a fundamental problem about modernity itself. They have never really worked, except through the mediation of powerful but inscrutable policing practices. Their history enables us to see both where the power of print really resides and how the stability of both texts and substances came to be taken for granted in modern society.

Mr Smith goes to Tokyo. A project, also in its early stages, on Erasmus Peshine Smith. Smith was an American political economist, lawyer, and (at one point) natural scientist who was recruited by the Meiji Emperor of Japan to become his advisor on trade and foreign affairs in the 1870s. Living in the imperial quarters at a time when other Westerners were largely restricted to Yokohama, Smith had unique access to the emperor’s household, and seems to have used it to advise policies in radical opposition to those preferred by Washington and London. The result was a scandal with repercussions that extended to the bases of colonialism, the slave trade, and economic liberalism. Smith’s private papers have survived unseen, and I hope to use them to tell this story for the first time.