Most of my historical writing has focused on European (and a little American) science and medicine between about 1650 and 1750, with some forays back into the sixteenth century and forward into the nineteenth. My current book, The Courtiers’ Anatomists: Animals and Humans in Louis XIV’s Paris, was published in 2015 by the University of Chicago Press. It is about anatomy, animals, and natural history in Paris between about 1640 and 1730, with the main focus on the period between 1660 and 1700. I argue that human and particularly animal anatomy played a critical role in the development of the experimental methods that are central to the development of modern science, and that dissection and natural history were as important as astronomy and physics in the events we call the Scientific Revolution. Among the human players in my story are Jean Pecquet, Claude Perrault, and Joseph-Guichard Duverney — none of them exactly household words in the literature of the Scientific Revolution.
In the past decade, I’ve also been involved in a research project with marine ecologist Jenny Dugan (UCSB) on the ecological and cultural history of a Santa Barbara wetland, the former Campbell Ranch, which is now part of the Coal Oil Point Reserve (part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System) and also part of the research site for the NSF-funded Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research project (SBC-LTER). I am an investigator for the SBC-LTER. I’ve recently begun to direct a history project at another LTER site, the Andrews Forest in Oregon.
I’m starting a new research project the cultural history of the human skeleton and skull in early modern Europe, which recently won a Standard Grant from the National Science Foundation.