Doctoral Candidate

Entered 2017

Cohen Hall, 330


B.A. History, Columbia University

M.Phil History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

Claire Sabel works on the relationship between global commerce and the earth sciences in the early modern period, with a focus on the trade in mineral commodities. Her dissertation investigates how the Indian Ocean gem-trade influenced knowledge of the earth in both Southeast Asia and Europe. An early iteration of this research focusing on the writings of Irish natural philosopher Robert Boyle was included in Gems in the Early Modern World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

Her research in the UK, Netherlands, Indonesia and India in 2022-23 is supported by a Fulbright-Hays fellowship and a National Science Foundation DDRIG grant. Her work has also been supported by the Huntington Library, Folger Library, the Geological Society of America, the Lisa Jardine grant of the Royal Society in London. She has also been a contributing researcher to the Natural Things project at Stanford University, and a former Delmas Junior Fellow at the Humanities Institute of the New York Botanical Garden.

She is developing a second project with artist Alix Pentecost-Farren, a micro-history of an eighteenth century amateur female naturalist in Britain, with support from Penn's Sachs Program in Arts Innovation, and a GAPSA-Provost Interdisciplinary Innovation fellowship.

In addition to her research, she is particularly interested in the role that histories of science, technology, and medicine play in secondary and higher education. She co-leads the Science Beyond the West working group at Penn which meets regularly to discuss issues of pedagogy, historiography, methods and sources. Before coming to Penn, she was a Research Associate with the Making and Knowing Project at Columbia (see our contribution to Reassembling Scholarly Communications (MIT, 2020), an intern with AAAS's Scientific Responsibility program, and Project Manager for Columbia's Center for Science and Society and History in Action initiative.

Research Interests

History of the earth sciences, early modern globalization, Southeast Asia, minerals, cross-cultural trade, K-12 education

Selected Work

Research Publications

"The Impact of European Trade with Southeast Asia on the Mineralogical Studies of Robert Boyle," in Michael Bycroft and Sven Dupré eds. Gems in the Early Modern World: Materials, Knowledge and Global Trade, 1450–1800. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, 87-116

Co-authored with Pamela Smith, Tianna Uchacz, and Naomi Rosenkranz, “The Making of Empirical Knowledge: Recipes, Craft, and Scholarly Communication,” in Jonathan Gray and Martin Paul Eve eds. Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020, 125-144 [pdf]


Public Writing & Press

"Intuition and Mediation," Weaving Knowledge blog, October 5, 2019

Collaborative Pedagogies, Penn Today, November 15, 2019

"Lou Henry Hoover, Lost in Translation," Distillations magazine, April 19 2021

Whose Science, Whose History? Why the History of Science Matters,” with Shireen Hamza, Science in the News, Harvard University, May 13, 2021 (poster design by Corena Loeb)

Historical tools for astronomical observation are reflected in a body of water. The reflection shows modern astronomical instruments

"Gems in the Archives," Royal Society blog, January 4, 2022

"Moles and Diamonds", Royal Society blog, April 19, 2022

"The Fossil Hunter," Penn Today, June 13, 2022


Courses Taught

I have been a Teaching Assistant for:

STSC/HSOC 001, The Origins of Modern Science (Fall 18)

STSC 208, Science and Religion in Global Perspective (Spring 19)

HSOC 002, Medicine in History (Fall 19)

STSC 160, Information Age (Spring 20)

Faculty Bookshelf