My research investigates how the interactions between humans and artifacts shaped the production of natural knowledge in early modern Europe. My approach brings together the history of science with the history of technology and the history of medicine, as well as more broadly, cultural and economic history, art history, social studies of science and technology, and studies in material culture. By exploring the relationship between humans, artifacts and natural knowledge, I seek to understand the ways in which this relationship shaped or challenged perceived boundaries between the natural and the artificial, the hand and the mind, knowing and making, science and industry, individual profit and public utility. I am also interested in the role of artifacts in the articulation of Enlightenment epistemic categories (such as natural order, the “normal” body, human progress), as well as in the scientific, commercial, political, and social networks that scientific and technical artifacts created.
I have published on the involvement of the human body in electrical experiments, on collecting and museums, on the public culture of science, as well as on industrial espionage and secrecy. My first book focuses on scientific culture in 18th-century Italy, Viaggio nel paese delle meraviglie. Scienza e curiosità nell’Italia del Settecento, (“A Journey in the land of marvels: Science and curiosity in 18th-century Italy”, 2007). I also co-edited a volume on the history of the medical applications of electricity (Electric Bodies. Episodes in the history of medical electricity, 2001). My new book, Artisanal Enlightenment: Science and the Mechanical Arts in Old Regime France will be published by Yale University Press in 2017.
Betweeen 2004 and 2007 I collaborated on the renovation of the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, now Galileo Museum, where I curated two permanent galleries: The Spectacle of Science
and Science at Home
. At Yale, I teach courses on The Scientific Revolution, Early Modern Science and Medicine, Collecting Nature and Art, History and Material Culture.
My work has been acknowledged with the 2016 Margaret W. Rossiter Prize for best article on the history of women in science awarded by the History of Science Society, and the 2015 Clifford Prize for best article in 18th-century studies awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. In 2012 I received the Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching from Yale College.
Viaggio nel paese delle meraviglie. Scienza e curiosità nell’Italia del Settecento [A journey in the land of marvels. Science and curiosity in eighteenth-century Italy]. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2007
Electric bodies. Episodes in the history of medical electricity (co-edited with Giuliano Pancaldi), Bologna: CIS, University of Bologna, 2001
Articles & book chapters
“Shocking Subjects. Human experiments and the material culture of medical electricity in eighteenth-century England”, in Erika Dick and Larry Stewart (eds), The Uses of Humans in Experiment: Perspectives from the 17th to the 20th Century (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016)
“Artisanal Knowledge, Expertise, and Patronage in Early 18th-Century Paris: The Société des Arts”, Eighteenth-Century Studies 48 (2015), 159-179 (with Olivier Courcelle)
“Enlightened Secrets: Silk, Industrial Espionage, and Intelligent Travel in 18th-century France”, Technology and Culture 54 (2013): 820-52 (winner of the 2015 Clifford Prize from the American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies)
“The architecture of knowledge: Science, collecting and display in eighteenth-century Naples”, in Helen Hills, Melissa Calaresu (eds.), New Approaches to Naples c.1500-1800, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013
“The spectacle of science” in Filippo Camerota ed., Galileo Museum. Masterpieces of science, Florence: Giunti, 2010
“Domestic Spectacles: electrical demonstrations between business and conversation”, in Christine Blondel, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent (eds.), Science and Spectacle in the European Enlightenment, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008
“Therapeutic attractions: early applications of electricity to the art of healing” in H.A. Whitaker, C.U.M. Smith, S. Finger (eds.) Brain, Mind and Medicine: Essays in Eighteenth-Century Neuroscience, Boton: Springer, 2007
“Sparking Controversy. Jean Antoine Nollet and medical electricity south of the Alps”, Nuncius. Journal of the History of Science, 20 (2005), 153-187
“A philosophical business: Edward Nairne and the Patent Medical Electrical Machine (1782)”, History of Technology, 23 (2001), 41-58.
“The electrical body of knowledge: medical electricity and experimental philosophy in the mid-eighteenth century”, in P. Bertucci, G. Pancaldi (eds.), Electric Bodies. Episodes in the history of medical electricity, Bologna: CIS, Dipartimento di Filosofia, 2001