The History Department extends its congratulations to Michael Rossi, Associate Professor of the History of Medicine, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and the College, for winning the University of Chicago Press's 2021 Laing Award for his book, The Republic of Color: Science, Perception, and the Making of Modern America.
Given annually as the Press's top honor, the Laing Award is presented to the UChicago faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction. The award is named in honor of Gordon J. Laing, the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States. The honor is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications, a committee of faculty members who oversee the Press’ imprint.
The Republic of Color was published in hardcover in 2019 and its significant praise includes a review from Science, which calls it an "intriguing look at the history of and current way we conceive of color. . . . This book does a beautiful job of weaving together the way the different color sciences have made a cultural impact throughout history." Ryan Coyne, chair of the Board of University Publications, described The Republic of Color as "a beautifully crafted intellectual history" that "exemplifies the University of Chicago’s commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry."
In an interview with the Press in 2019, Rossi discussed his "long-standing obsession with design and painting." The title of The Republic of Color, he added, reflected the book's emphasis on both color and politics, and how color perception served as "an important part of the project of American statecraft at the turn of the century."
"I am incredibly honored to be a Laing Award recipient, not simply for the recognition itself, but also to know that the book would be held in proximity with so many scholars that I admire for the rigor, intensity and intellectual curiosity of their work," Rossi said. "I want to extend my gratitude to everyone that I’ve worked with at the Press, and my colleagues who supported the project through some unlikely moments. The book benefited from the advice, care, critical questions and insightful imaginings of many folks at the Press, in the history department, and around the University."
President Paul Alivisatos presented the award during a November 10 reception at the David Rubenstein Forum. The event also honored UChicago scholar Eve L. Ewing, who won the 2020 Laing Award for her 2018 book Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side.
For more information, please see UChicago Press's press release on the award ceremony.