My dissertation, “The Pattern-Seekers: The Science of Discernment, 1850–1920,” focuses on the role of aesthetics in scientific reasoning, specifically how the concept of “pattern” migrated from the world of craft into the world of science around the year 1900. By combining approaches from material culture and the history of science, my work reveals the role aesthetics has played in the rise of abstract scientific thinking. Furthermore, the project demonstrates how our current age of algorithmic reasoning and “pattern recognition” has its roots in late nineteenth century attempts to understand and discipline the natural world.
In addition to my dissertation research, I have also explored the history of fancy goldfish in America. Arriving in North America at the height of the era we have come to call the Gilded Age, the fish became living embodiments of the aesthetics of excess. This research came out of my master’s thesis, which explored the history of the domestic aquarium and how Americans collected, displayed, and discussed aquatic plants and animals between 1850 and 1920.
My teaching interests encompass the intersection of art, science, and culture, including the history of the life sciences, the history of craft and technology, material and visual culture, and American cultural history before 1930. I have a particular interest in the role of gender and race in American history, and have an abiding fascination with the history of non-human organisms and biotechnologies, broadly conceived. I draw inspiration from feminist approaches and science and technology studies.
A full copy of my CV is available here.