Der Wägleinmacher (in Hans Sachs, Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Stände auff Erden, 1568)

In my most recent research, The Weight of Things, I am writing a non-canonical history of experimentation on the quantification of matter in pre- and early modern Europe. This project has recently been awarded a 3-year grant from the DFG (German Research Foundation) (budget 294,000 Euro, period 2017-2020). This research breaks new ground, moving away from contemporary disciplinary boundaries, and bringing together the broad spectrum of both practical and theoretical early modern fields that made use of the notion of specific gravity.  It brings back to life an intricate network of pure and applied disciplines, ranging from natural philosophy and numismatics to gunnery and artillery. This new multidisciplinary perspective shows that the experimenting on the quantification of matter became a major concern for a heterogeneous group of European early modern experts, including antiquarians, alchemists, Jesuits, instrument makers and natural philosophers. In 2016/7, this project received funding from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and the Vossius Center for History of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. It also received a grant for preliminary research from the Scientific Instruments Society.


The Tudor Pattern Book, fol. 12v (detail )

I am also writing a book titled The Thread of Experience. Francis Bacon and Mechanical Arts in Early Stuart England. The Thread of Experience is a contextual history of Francis Bacon’s experimental project, analyzing its origins in the culture of the early Stuart age, during the reign of James I. The book proposes a new interpretation of Bacon’s experimental philosophy, showing its roots in the political and courtly culture of Bacon’s time. It explores the patronage of technology and innovation under James I, and Bacon’s interests in mining, gardening and horticulture. Also, The Thread of Experience is the first study ever to examine Bacon’s role in the early Stuart patent system. While Elizabethan privileges for new industrial processes are well documented, early Stuart patents of invention are not. This set of institutional records allows for a fresh, unconventional narrative of Francis Bacon’s connections with inventors and entrepreneurs of his time.