John Tresch

Associate Professor
On Leave 2015-2016
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 research and teaching explore the diversity of the sciences, especially in their interactions with other cultural formations. He focuses on connections between knowledge, disciplines, cosmology, social order, and ritual; changing methods, instruments, and institutional arrangements in the sciences, arts, and media; 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 include the study of cosmograms as a tool for comparative cosmology, notably in the Anthropocene and the digital age, and studies of 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, the Huntington Library, the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, and the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study. Since 2014 he has headed the online relaunch of the History of Anthropology Newsletter.

Selected Publications: 

Click here for a list of publications, with many downloadable articles.

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

Public talk on "anthropotechniques" of knowledge: "There Are No Religions, and Science is One of Them."

Video lecture and interview on artificial lighting, the Anthropocene, William Blake, and Brian Wilson: "Fiat Lux and Earth's Answer."

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

Buddhify Your Android, short essay on mindfulness apps, Dec. 2015.

“Gilgamesh to Gaga.” Lapham’s Quarterly, "Celebrity," Vol IV, No.1., pp.185-192, 2011.

Audio/Visual, Grey Room Quarterly. Issue on media studies and history of science, co-edited with Mara Mills. 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. 

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