My dissertation outline:


In my research, I investigate the long histories of practices in science and medicine. Although our current professional identities divide science and medicine, natural philosophers and physicians often joined in the generation of new knowledge and practices in the early modern period. My first book project merges cultural and intellectual history to reconstruct the activities of a community of chemical and medical experimentalists in seventeenth-century Leiden, and then documents the striking vitality of their legacy into the early nineteenth century. This is the first cultural history of the new experimental medicine and philosophy at Leiden, which was one of Europe’s leading medical schools in the seventeenth century. I plan to expand my current chapters to include the Dutch engagement with East Asian science and medicine. The legacy and subsequent appropriation of the Leiden practices into the early nineteenth century demands a more careful delineation of the ‘modern’ and ‘pre-modern’ categories.

I am currently co-editing a volume integrating the histories of medicine, philosophy, and science in the early modern period, which is under contract with Springer. For my future research, I have a book project underway on the senses in the Scientific Revolution. Historians explore visual culture and the mechanist emphasis on visuality, but we need to map the histories of the other senses as well. I have already shown that different disciplines privileged different senses, with alchemy relying on taste-tests to detect otherwise hidden principles. The history of the senses draws us into the cultural history of the relationship between disgust and natural philosophy and medicine in early modern Europe. Strikingly, the Leiden researchers and many chemists emphasized the senses of taste and smell as uniquely suited for understanding the nature of health and disease. The epistemic significance they attached to the ‘lower senses’ of taste and smell also allows for novel explorations of the bodily and artisanal dimensions of experimental practice.

My work has received a number of prizes, including the 2011 Partington Prize from the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry and the 2012 Shryock Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine.