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Henry Edward Guerlac (1910-1982) graduated from Cornell University in 1932, received a master's degree in biochemistry from Cornell in 1933, and a doctorate in European history from Harvard University in 1941. Before joining the Cornell faculty in 1946, he taught at Harvard and the University of Wisconsin, and for three years was the historian for the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1964, he was named Goldwin Smith Professor of the History of Science and in 1970 he became director of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. Guerlac was awarded the George Sarton Medal by the History of Science Society in 1973, was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1978, and in 1982 was named Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur by the French government.

Guerlac's books include Science in Western Civilization, Newton on the Continent, and Lavoisier: The Crucial Year, for which he received the Pfizer Prize in 1959. At the time of his death Professor Guerlac was completing an annotated edition of Newton's Opticks, which was first published in 1704.