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Dr Michael Bycroft

Office: Room 3.75, third floor, Faculty of Arts Building

Email and phone:, 024 761 50442 (internal: 50442)

Roles in History department: on research leave in 2023-4

I am a historian of early modern Europe with a particular interest in France, the Enlightenment, and the physical sciences. My current book project is a retelling of early modern science through the lens of precious stones, a major and underrated class of objects in the history of science.

Gems aside, I have published on 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 am also interested in the methodology of the history of science, and of the humanities in general. In this vein, I am working on a book-length defence of empiricism in the sciences and the humanities.

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)

Past teaching

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)

Career path

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

Selected publications
  • Gems and the New Science: Matter and Value in the Scientific Revolution, forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press
  • "Science Beyond the Enlightenment," introduction to The Eighteenth-Century Problem, 40 Years On, special issue of Journal of Early Modern Studies 12, no. 1 (2023), co-edited with Adrian Johns
  • (co-edited with Alexander Wragge-Morley), "Science and Connoisseurship in the European Enlightenment," special issue of History of Science 60, no. 4 (2022): 439-457
  • (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

"Down Under: Reflections on a New Zealand Cemetery on the Occasion of the First "Europe in the Making" Lecture for the 2022-23 Academic Year," EMECC blog, October 7, 2022

"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,, 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, 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 (20


Boodt crystals