Skip to:

Lynn Eden

Research Interests

Cold War and nuclear history; organizational approaches to security; the American state and security policy; science and technology studies


Lynn Eden is a Senior Research Scholar Emerita. She was a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation until January 2016, as well as was Associate Director for Research. Eden received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan, held several pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, and taught in the history department at Carnegie Mellon before coming to Stanford.

In the area of international security, Eden has focused on U.S. foreign and military policy, arms control, the social construction of science and technology, and organizational issues regarding nuclear policy and homeland security. She co-edited, with Steven E. Miller, Nuclear Arguments: Understanding the Strategic Nuclear Arms and Arms Control Debates (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989). She was an editor of The Oxford Companion to American Military History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), which takes a social and cultural perspective on war and peace in U.S. history. That volume was chosen as a Main Selection of the History Book Club.

Eden's book Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004; New Delhi: Manas Publications, 2004) explores how and why the U.S. government--from World War II to the present--has greatly underestimated the damage caused by nuclear weapons by failing to predict damage from firestorms. It shows how well-funded and highly professional organizations, by focusing on what they do well and systematically excluding what they don't, may build a poor representation of the world--a self-reinforcing fallacy that can have serious consequences, from the sinking of the Titanic to not predicting the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to burning jet fuel. Whole World on Fire won the American Sociological Association's 2004 Robert K. Merton Award for best book in science, knowledge, and technology.

Eden has also written on life in small-town America. Her first book, Crisis in Watertown (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972), was her college senior thesis; it was a finalist for a National Book Award in 1973. Her second book, Witness in Philadelphia, with Florence Mars (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), about the murders of civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman in the summer of 1964, was a Book of the Month Club Alternate Selection.