Science and technology in the early modern world, cultures of collecting and display; artisanal knowledge, the early modern body, scientific travel, material culture, experimental philosophy
My work focuses on science, technology, and medicine in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. I have published on artisanal cultures and the politics of encyclopedism in Old Regime France, on the social history of experimental physics in Italy and England, on the silk industry and industrial espionage within Europe and across the Atlantic. Most recently, my research and publications have addressed the intersections between HSTM and the history of craft and labor. My goal is to make science, medicine, and technology more central in historical studies and to give voice to marginalized historical actors. For this reason, my research pays close attention to material and visual sources, which offer insights into actors and practices often invisible in textual accounts.
My most recent book, Artisanal Enlightenment: Science and the Mechanical Arts in Old Regime France (Yale University Press, 2017), argues for the centrality of the mechanical arts and the world of making in the French Enlightenment. With a radical shift of historical actors, it foregrounds the figure of the artiste, a period term for learned artisans who defined themselves in contrast to savants and routine-bound craftsmen. I show that early encyclopedic projects on the arts and crafts – which paved the way to Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie – were information gathering activities designed to support the colonial and commercial schemes of the French state. I place the artiste as a central actor in these efforts and, more generally, in the changing landscape of France’s political economy. Artisanal Enlightenment was awarded the 2019 Louis Gottschalk prize for best book in eighteenth-century studies by the American Society for Eihteenth-Century Studies.
My first book, 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, 2007) is a study of the social spaces in which eighteenth-century electrical science flourished in Italy.
My third book, In the Land of Marvels. Science, Fabricated Realities, and Industrial Espionage in the Age of the Grand Tour, forthcoming with Johns Hopkins University Press, explores the relationship between science and eighteenth-century information cultures through the lens a medical controversy and its life on the printed page. I show that reputed experimenters and academicians, along with travel writers, eagerly manipulated facts to create fabricated realities. These fabrications in print, just like fake news circulating in the cybersphere, had real life effects: they secured or started careers, promoted new medical treatments, spread long-lasting stereotypes, and created imagined pasts.
I have been active in bringing the history of science to the broader public. 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. I am currently working on the first History of Science and Technology Gallery at Yale, to open in the Peabody Museum in 2024, and I am the co-curator of Crafting Worldviews. European Instruments of Art and Science a temporary exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery that will open on February 17, 2023.
My work has been acknowledged with the 2019 Louis Gottschalk prize for best book in eighteenth-century studies, 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.
I currently serve as the second vice-president for the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.
- 2019 Louis Gottschalk Prize for best book on eighteenth-century studies, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Second-prize winner, 2018 John Pickstone prize for best scholarly book in history of science and medicine, awarded every two years by the British Society for the History of Science. Finalist, Kenshur Prize for best book in 18th-century interdisciplinary studies. Shortlist, Pfizer Award for best book in the history of science in a three-year period, awarded by the History of Science Society
Viaggio nel paese delle meraviglie. Scienza e curiosità nell’Italia del Settecento [A Journey in Wonderland. 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
In the Land of Marvels. Science, Fabricated Realities, and Industrial Espionage in the Age of the Grand Tour (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming)
“The In/visible Woman: Mariangela Ardinghelli (1730-1824) and the circulation of natural knowledge between Paris and Naples”, Isis 104(2013): 226-49 (winner of the Margaret Rossiter Prize for best article on the history of women in science published in the previous four years, awarded by the History of Science Society)
“The architecture of knowledge: Science, collecting and display in 18th-century Naples”, in Helen Hills, Melissa Calaresu (eds.), New Approaches to Neapolitan Culture c. 1500-1800: The power of place, Aldershot: Ashgate
“Designing the house of knowledge in 18th-century Naples; the ephemeral museum of Ferdinando Spinelli, Prince of Tarsia”, in Jim Bennett, Sofia Talas (eds), Makin Science Public in the Eighteenth Century: The role of Cabinets of Experimental Philosophy. Brill (2013)
“The spectacle of science”, in Filippo Camerota ed., Galileo Museum. Masterpieces of science Florence, 2010
“Science in the Domestic Sphere”, Filippo Camerota ed., Galileo Museum, Masterpieces of science, Florence, 2010
“Les Leçons de physique expérimentale de l’abbé Nollet” in Sciences et curiosités à la Cour de Versailles, Châteaude de Versailles, 2010
“Enlightening Towers: Public Opinion, Local Authorities and the Reformation of Meteorology in Eighteenth Century Italy,” in Playing with Fire: The Cultural History of the Lightning Rod, P. Heering, O. Hochadel, D. Rhees (eds.), Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 2009.
“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, pp. 271-84, 2007
“Sparks in the dark: the attraction of electricity in the eighteenth century”, Endeavour, 31 (2007), 88-93
“Revealing sparks: John Wesley and the religious utility of electrical healing”, British Journal for the History of Science, 39 (2006), 341-62
“Back from Wonderland: Jean Antoine Nollet’s Italian Tour (1749)”, in L. Evans, A. Marr (eds.), Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Aldeshot: Ashgate, pp. 193-211, 2006
“Public utility and spectacular display: the Physics Cabinet of the Royal Museum in Florence”, Nuncius, 21 (2006), 323-36
“Sparking Controversy: Jean Antoine Nollet and Medical Electricity South of the Alps”, Nuncius, 20 (2005), 153-187
“Promethean Sparks: Electricity and the order of nature in the eighteenth century”, in S. Zielinski, S. Wagnermaier (eds.), Variantology1. Diverse Historical Approaches Towards an Archaeology of Media, Technology and the Arts, Cologne: Walther Konig, 2005
“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
D.Phil, University of Oxford
M.Sc in “History of Science: Instruments, Museums, Science, Technology”, University of Oxford
Laurea (B.Sc) summa cum laude in Physics, Department of Physics, University of Bologna