Dr Michael Bycroft
Office: Room 3.75, third floor, Faculty of Arts Building
Email and phone: M.Bycroft@warwick.ac.uk, 024 761 50442 (internal: 50442)
Roles in History department: Exam Secretary (2021-present)
Term-time office hours: Tuesday 12-1pm and Friday 3-4pm, during term time, excluding reading week. I can do in-person (FAB 3.75) or on Teams at both times. For Teams, just call me on Teams during the office hour - no need to make an appointment - although you may need to try more than once if there is a queue. To meet outside these office hours, please send me an email to arrange a time.
I am also a historian of early modern Europe with a particular interest in France, the Enlightenment, and the physical sciences. I am writing a history of the science of precious stones. More broadly, I am interested in the way people reason about matters of value. I am also working on two other book projects: a history of material evaluation in Old Regime France; and a defence of empiricism in science and the humanities.
My other interests include the life and work of the French scientist Charles Dufay (1698-1739), the subject of my PhD thesis; the role of institutions in shaping scientific inquiry, especially in early modern France and England; the rococo movement in the decorative arts, and its connections to the science of the time; science in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert; the history of connoisseurship in art and science; and the fate of wondrous phenomena in the Enlightenment. I have also written on methodological questions in the history of science, including anachronism, the symmetry principle, the internal/external distinction, and the historiographical legacy of Thomas Kuhn; reflections on these topics can be found on my now-dormant blog, www.doublerfraction.blogspot.com.
Research centres and networks
History of Science and Technology Hub
Global History and Culture Centre
Habitability Global Research Priority
Early Modern and Eighteenth Century Centre
Centre for the History of Medicine
Teaching in 2022-23
HI133 Europe in the Making (first-year module)
HI3T5 Value in the Age of Reason (final year option module)
HI174 The Enlightenment (undergraduate first-year option module)
HI2D5 Science, Technology and Society, 1400 to Present (undergraduate second-year option module)
HI323 Historiography (undergraduate third-year module)
Jan 2023-present: Associate Professor in the History of Science and Technology, University of Warwick
Sep 2017-: Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology, University of Warwick
2014-2017: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, University of Warwick
2013-2014: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dupré Group, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
2010-13: PhD, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
2007-8: MA, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Toronto, Canada
2003-5: BA, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
2006: BSc, Physics and Mathematics, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
- Gems and the New Science: Matter and Value in the Scientific Revolution, forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press
- (co-edited with Sven Dupré), Gems in the Early Modern World: Materials, Knowledge and Global Trade, 1450-1800 (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019)
- “Regulation and Intellectual Change at the Paris Goldsmiths’ Guild, 1660-1740,” Journal of Early Modern History 22, no. 6 (2018), pp. 500-527
- “Style and Substance in Rococo Science,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 48, no. 3 (2017): 359-84.
- “Iatrochemistry and the Evaluation of Mineral Waters in France, 1600-1770,” in Bulletin for the History of Medicine 91, no. 2 (2017): 303-330, in special issue entitled “Testing Drugs and Trying Cures”, ed. Elaine Leong and Alisha Rankin.
- “What Difference Does a Translation Make? The Traité des vernis (1723) in the Career of Charles Dufay,” in Translation and the Circulation of Knowledge in Early Modern Science, ed. Sietske Fransen and Niall Hodson (Brill, 2017).
- “How to Save the Symmetry Principle,” in The Philosophy of Historical Case Studies, ed. Raphael Scholl and Tilman Sauer, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 319 (Springer, 2016).
- “Dutour et le spath d'Islande: entre l’optique et la géologie,” in Etienne-François Dutour de Salvert (1711-1789): un physicien auvergnat du XVIIIe siècle, ed. Pierre Crépel and Jean Ehrard (L’Harmattan, 2014).
- “Dutour et l'électricité: défendeur habile du système Nollet,” Etienne-François Dutour de Salvert (1711-1789): un physicien auvergnat du XVIIIe siècle, ed. Pierre Crépel and Jean Ehrard (L’Harmattan, 2014).
- “Wonders in the Academy: the Value of Strange Facts in the Experimental Research of Charles Dufay,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 43(3) (2013) 334-370.
- “The Trials of Theory: Psychology and Institutionalist Economics, 1910–1931,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 46, no. 2 (2010): 144–64.
Selected talks, workshops, conference panels
- 2022, June 10. "How to be a Materialist About the History of Science," at History of Science and the 'Big Picture', conference at the University of Warwick (recording of talk here)
- 2021, Feb 11. “Science and Connoisseurship at the Enlightenment,” with Alexander Wragge-Morley. Enlightenment Reading Group, Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study (online).
- 2019, Oct 19. “Gems and the Scientific Revolution” (keynote). Yale Gems and Mineral Symposium, Peabody Museum, Yale University
- 2018, May 19. “Geography and Gem Classification around 1700." A Different Point of View: Scales, Spaces and Contexts in Histories of the Local and the Global. Conference held at the University of Warwick
- 2017, Feb 24. “A Failed Innovation: Isaaq Schabraq's Royal Diamond Manufacture in Paris, 1780-1788." Innovation in the Pre-Modern World: Knowledge, Design and Products, workshop at the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Warwick
- 2016, June 22-5. “The Quantifying Spirit in the Physical Sciences," with Daniel John Mitchell. Panel session at the 3 Societies Conference, Edmonton
- 2015 May-2016 Apr. “Gems in Transit: Materials, Values and Knowledge in the Early Modern World," with Sven Dupré and Marta Ajmar. 3 workshops held at the University of Warwick, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Utrecht University / University of Amsterdam, on 18-19 May 2015, 7-8 April 2016, and 11-12 April 2016
Selected impact and public engagement
"Qui a peur de la race biologique" [Who's Afraid of Biological Race?], Books no. 123, Jan-Feb 2023
"Arguing About the Origins of Science," Los Angeles Review of Books, March 27, 2022
“Galileo and the Telescope,” Modern History Review [for A-level students] 24, no. 1 (Sep. 2021)
Consultant to the curators of the DIVA Diamond Museum, Antwerp, 2016
50+ essays on www.doublerfraction.blogspot.com,, a research blog on the history and philosophy of science (2012-2017)
Energy for Radio: A Guide for Practitioners (Catholic Media Council, 2012)
Various reviews of popular science books, published online at www.popularscience.co.uk, 2009–2010
“Science in the Shadows,” in Chemical Heritage Magazine 28, no. 3 (Fall 2010)
“Adventures in Romantic Science: Richard Holmes on Passion, Teamwork, and the Neglected Art of Biography,” History of Science Society Newsletter 39, no. 1 (2010)
“Perspectives on Science,” History of Science Society Newsletter 39, no. 1 (2010)