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 most recent book, The Courtiers’ Anatomists: Animals and Humans in Louis XIV’s Paris, was published in 2015 by the University of Chicago Press, and won the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society for best scholarly book. 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’m especially interested in the role that historical knowledge can play in ecological restoration, and I’ve co-authored several articles on this topic.
I’m in the midst of a new book project on giant bones and skeletons and the origins of nationalism in early modern Europe, which I worked on last year at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France and at the Descartes Center at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. I’ve recently returned to my project on early modern anatomical sksletons, for which I was awarded a grant in 2016 from the National Science Foundation. I’m also currently preparing a second edition of my 2003 book Experimenting with Humans and Animals.
Recent Non-academic publications
On infection parties, herd immunity and other half-truths History & Policy, 8 April 2020
The Bonds of History: A Festschrift for Mary Jo Nye History of Science Society Newsletter, April 2015
Sam Schmieding, Anita Guerrini, and Fred Swanson, “Exploring LTER History,” LTER Network News, 26:4 (Fall 2013)
Books and Google Books History of Science Society Newsletter, April 2012
Analyzing Culture with Google Books: Is It Social Science? Pacific Standard (online 7 August 2011)
Roast Beef and… Salad? History Today, February 2011, 36-43 (chosen for “Best of History Today in 2011”)
Blog posts on:
Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Stanford University
Untold Lives, British Library
Center for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Cambridge (CRASSH), “Objects in Motion”
The Vault, Slate Magazine