Paola Bertucci

Paola Bertucci's picture
Professor of History and History of Medicine; Curator-in-charge, History of Science and Technology Division, Peabody Museum
HQ 255
Fields of interest: 

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 am also broadly interested in the visual and material cultures of science. 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. 

I am the author of three monographs:

My most recent book, In the Land of Marvels. Science, Fabricated Realities, and Industrial Espionage in the Age of the Grand Tour (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023) 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. 

My second 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 is a study of the social spaces in which eighteenth-century electrical science flourished in Italy.  

I have been active in bringing the history of science to the broader public. In 2023, I co-curated Crafting Worldviews. Art and Science in Europe, 1500-1800 a temporary exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery. 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 renovated Peabody Museum  in 2024. 

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 have been elected Vice-President of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. 

Selected Publications:


 In the Land of Marvels. Science, Fabricated Realities, and Industrial Espionage in the Age of the Grand Tour (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023) 

Artisanal Enlightenment: Science and the Mechanical Arts in Old Regime France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017). 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. 

Viaggio nel paese delle meraviglie. Scienza e curiosità nell’Italia del Settecento.  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 or book chapters:

Spinners Hands, Imperial Minds: Migrant Labor, Embodied Expertise, and the Failed Transfer of Silk Technology across the Atlantic,” Technology and        Culture 62 (2021), 1003-1031. 

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 ArtsEighteenth-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 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 Meterology 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


Early Modern
Western Europe
Science, Technology, Medicine