John Tresch

Associate Professor
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
Contact Information
Office Address: 
327 Claudia Cohen Hall
Email Address:
Office Hours: 
Monday 1-3 and by appointment
Teaching Fields: 

History of physical and social sciences, science studies, epistemology, history of technology, science and humanities, anthropology and science, intellectual history.

Research Interests: 

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. He is editor-in-chief of the History of Anthropology Newsletter.

Selected Publications: 

Click for list of publications with downloadable articles.

"'Matter No More': Edgar Allan Poe and the Paradoxes of Materialism." Critical Inquiry (43), 2016.

Public talk on "anthropotechniques" of knowledge: "There Are No Religions, and Science is One of Them." Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2016.

Video lecture and interview on artificial lighting, William Blake, the Anthropocene, and the Beach Boys: "Fiat Lux and Earth's Answer." Sonic Acts, Amsterdam, 2015

The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

"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.

Book Images: 
[image of book cover]
[image of book cover]
Observing Nature - Representing Experience
Poe's Optics209.54 KB
Humboldt's Instruments3.11 MB
Cosmograms interview1.17 MB
Mind and Life essay, Tresch.pdf1.85 MB