D. Graham Burnett

Associate Professor of History<br>Christian Gauss Fund University Preceptor

Affiliated Faculty

 205 Dickinson Hall





D. Graham Burnett is professor of history at Princeton University and an editor at Cabinet magazine in Brooklyn. His training is in the history and philosophy of science, and he is the author of four books: Masters of All They Surveyed (Chicago, 2000); A Trial By Jury (Knopf, 2001); Descartes and the Hyperbolic Quest (APS, 2005); and most recently Trying Leviathan (Princeton, 2007), which was awarded the 2008 New York City Book Award and the Hermalyn Prize for Urban History. His interests include the sciences of earth and sea since 1600; natural history, systematics, and the environmental sciences; exploration, colonialism, and European expansion; and the general problems associated with the political and social mobilization of scientific expertise. In 2007 he edited an Isis “Focus” section on science, technology, and the law, and his writings about juries and jury decision-making have been widely excerpted and reprinted. In the fall of 2011 University of Chicago Press will publish his new book, The Sounding of the Whale, a study of international science policy and marine conservation in the twentieth century. Currently supported by a Mellon “New Directions” Fellowship, Burnett is now working on problems at the intersection of technology and the arts, with an emphasis on issues of deception and forgery. He is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities and an alumnus of the Cullman Center at the NYPL.


A Trial By Jury by D. Graham Burnett
(Knopf, 2002)


There are really two stories here: that of the case itself--a trial story, a courtroom story, a drama focused around a violent death; and that of the deliberations--the story of what happened behind the closed door of the jury room. Each of these stories is complex, and they are of course entangled. I set out to write this book in order to tell the latter, but to do so I must rehearse elements of the former. Let me be clear, though: it is by no means my intention to retry the case in a personal memoir. The case is closed. In writing this book, I have made no additional investigations of the events at issue, I have not revisited the records of the trial, and I have not interviewed any of the people involved. All of that was tempting, and would certainly have been interesting, but my sense has been that to embark on such digging would have been, inevitably, to put the trial on trial, to lose myself again in the twisting labyrinth of unrecoverable fact that we negotiated in the jury room. I would have begun to extend that labyrinth, to open new rooms and passages. And this was not the aim. I am sure there is more to the maze than I have seen (when is there not?), but by keeping notes during the weeks of the trial, I laid a thread along the path we took together as jurors, and that is the thread I will follow here.