Early Modern Science

The Early Modern Science Working Group meets monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss readings that are of particular interest to participants.

Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user

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Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • May 11, 2022

    Nick Wilding, Georgia State University, "Galileo Machinator" 
    Dear colleagues,
    I wanted to try something new: I have just, over the last few weeks, and mainly in the last few days, written what I hope to be the start of my new book, commissioned several years ago by Reaktion Press and subsequently derailed by the pandemic. I've included the initial proposal with (p.2) a Postscript sketching out what I'm now trying to do. The text is only lightly footnoted, probably contains mistakes, typos, etc, so please don't bother proofreading, just read. What I would really value is a discussion about the general approach - I'm trying to use forgeries to write a biography, but don't know yet whether this works.
    Thank you for your time and thought.

  • April 13, 2022

    Tianna Uchacz (Texas A&M University)
    "Reading Between the Lines: Ornament Prints and the Tacit Know-How of Material Translation"
    In the sixteenth century, leading European artists and enterprising printmakers began to issue engraved series of designs for grotesque ornament. Marketed broadly to “lovers of art,” these prints showcased inventive elaborations of strapwork, garlands, floral motifs, hybrid animals, and masks. In many cases, the print series included a title page touting the utility of the designs for artisans ranging from painters and embroiderers to sculptors and goldsmiths. The material affordances of paint, thread, wood, stone, and metal, however, are distinct, as were the tools, techniques, and design traditions necessary to work with them. This paper considers what can be gained by seeing ornament print title pages as technical texts or "recipes" of sorts. The reconstruction of historical making techniques can help historians understand period claims for the utility of ornament prints, parsing the rhetoric from the material reality of translating design across media in early modern Europe.

  • March 9, 2022

    George Elliott (Brown)
    "Nullius in Verba: A Saltbox Scientist in his Chamber Laboratory"
    In this dissertation chapter, I build on the work of historians of early modern European alchemy and science as well as English colonial alchemy to describe the social history of seventeenth-century New England laboratories and their alchemical practitioners. While work has been done to understand the presence of alchemists within New England, their daily practices and meaning remain less understood, especially compared to their European peers. Using the surviving records of the minister-turned-alchemist Gershom Bulkeley, I argue for the entanglement of experimental and domestic lives within the homes of the region’s social elite. Bulkeley constructed and stocked an alchemical laboratory within his Wethersfield, Connecticut household, a saltbox home situated in the center of the town. There, he produced and experimented with alchemical medicines for his medical practice for more than 30 years. However, his daily work expanded beyond this central room as he trialed fertilizers in his saltbox garden and conducted meteorological observations through his windows. I argue that all such experimental activities across the saltbox’s many spaces fell interspersed between the hours of Bulkeley’s other domestic life lived amongst family and the household’s enslaved. 

  • February 9, 2022

    Pamela H. Smith and Naomi Rosenkranz (Columbia University)

    Secrets of Craft and Nature from the Making and Knowing Lab: Hands-on History of Science
    In 2020, the Making and Knowing Project published Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640. This sixteenth-century French manuscript contains 340 pages of instructions and observations on artistic techniques. In addition to a transcription and English translation of the entire manuscript, Secrets of Craft and Nature features hands-on investigation and reconstruction by students and scholars in the Making and Knowing Lab. This research, now accessible in the edition’s 130 essays, provides many new insights into sixteenth-century art, craft, technology, and daily life.
    This session will give an introduction to using and navigating Secrets of Craft and Nature and its associated teaching resources (hands-on lesson plans, syllabi, and student projects) that the Project has made openly available on its Sandbox. We hope everyone might have a chance  before the session to browse the Edition: https://edition640.makingandknowing.org and the Sandbox: https://cu-mkp.github.io/sandbox/), and to come with questions.


  • December 8, 2021

    Melissa B. Reynolds, "The Past and Future in Print" 
    You can find the pre-circulated paper below. The session will take place over Zoom, which you can access on the date through the link on this page.
    If you have any questions leading up to the event, please do not hesitate to reach out to the coordinators. 

  • November 10, 2021

    Yijie Huang, "The pluralism of mechanism and the emergence of a pulse clocklike in late seventeenth-century England"

  • October 13, 2021

    Our first meeting of the 21/22 academic year will be next Wednesday, October 13th, at noon EST. We will be discussing Georges Farhat's WIP on Louis Savot’s (ca. 1579-1640) galenic perspective on the art of building. The article has been uploaded and a zoom link for the meeting will be made available on the working group website.

  • June 9, 2021

    Ashley Gonik, Doctoral Candidate at Harvard University
    "Printed Calendars, Inside and Out"

  • May 12, 2021

    Luke Freeman, Doctoral Candidate at University of Minnesota  
    “Bernard and Picart’s Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses des tous les peuple du monde (1723-1743)"

  • March 10, 2021

    Anita Guerrini, Horning Professor in the Humanities emerita at Oregon State University and Research Professor of History at University of California, Santa Barbara
    “Giants, Fossils and National Identity in Early Modern France"