Ph.D., History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University
Ancien élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, concours B'/L
D.E.A., Sciences Sociales, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
B.A., Anthropology, University of Chicago
John Tresch is an historian of science and technology. Trained in anthropology and philosophy, his work investigates various sciences and their interactions with diverse cultural formations. He focuses on changing methods, instruments, and institutions in the sciences, arts, and media; connections among disciplines, cosmology, social order, and ritual; and shifting definitions of the rational and real.
His book, The Romantic Machine, set in France before the revolution of 1848, examined intersections between romanticism, science, industry, and utopian politics; it won the 2013 History of Science Society's Pfizer Award for Outstanding Book. His next book, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science, shows Poe's technical obsessions in the light of an unruly print culture and scientists' efforts to institute authority over knowledge. Other ongoing projects focus on "cosmograms" as a tool for comparing natural orders (as in the Anthropocene), and on contemporary and historical neuroscience.
He has held fellowships at Columbia's Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, the Huntington Library, the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and has been visiting researcher at King's College London and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He is editor-in-chief of the History of Anthropology Newsletter.
Click for list of publications with downloadable articles.
Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge. Collection co-edited with Simon Schaffer and Pasquale Gagliardi, forthcoming.
"Every Society Invents the Failed Utopia It Deserves." On history, fiction, and utopia. Public Domain Review, 2016
"'Matter No More': Edgar Allan Poe and the Paradoxes of Materialism." Critical Inquiry (43), 2016.
"Anthropotechniques for the Anthropocene" (video: "There Are No Religions, and Science is One of Them.") Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, "Technosphere," 2016.
- Winner of Pfizer Award for Outstanding Book in History of Science, History of Science Society, 2013
- Named one of the Best Books of 2012 by The New Museum (NYC).
- Council for European Studies 2014 Book Award, Honorable Mention.
- Podcast discussion of The Romantic Machine with philosopher Simon Critchley at New York Public Library, October 2012
- Review in Science Book a Day
"Buddhify Your Android." Tricycle, Dec. 2015.
"Gilgamesh to Gaga." Lapham’s Quarterly, "Celebrity," Vol IV, No.1., pp.185-192, 2011.
Audio/Visual. Special Issue of Grey Room Quarterly on media studies and history of science, co-edited with Mara Mills (NYU). Introduction and "The Prophet and the Pendulum: Popular Science and Audiovisual Phantasmagoria around 1848" (43), 2011.
"Experimental Ethics and the Science of the Meditating Brain." In Neurocultures: Glimpses into an Expanding Universe, Francisco Ortega and Fernando Vidal, eds.. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 45-64, 2011.
"Estrangement of Vision: Edgar Allan Poe’s Optics." In Observing Nature- Representing Experience, The Osmotic Dynamics of Romanticism, 1800-1850, Erna Fiorenti, ed.. Berlin: Reimer Verlag, pp. 126-157, 2007.
"Cosmogram." Interview with Jean-Christophe Royoux, in Cosmograms, Melik Ohanian and Jean-Christophe Royoux, eds.. Lukas and Sternberg. New York. pp. 67-76, 2005.
"On Going Native: Thomas Kuhn and Anthropological Method." Philosophy of the Social Sciences 31(3): 302-322, 2001.
"Heredity is an Open System: Gregory Bateson as Descendant and Ancestor." Anthropology Today, 14(6): 3-6, 1998.
History of physical and social sciences, science studies, epistemology, history of technology, science and humanities, anthropology and science, intellectual history.