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Dr James Poskett


Email: j dot poskett at warwick dot ac dot uk
Phone: 024 7652 2542
Office: H019, ground floor of Humanities Building
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 11-12 and Thursdays, 11-12 (during term)

Academic Profile

  • 2017 onwards: Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology, University of Warwick
  • 2015-2017: Adrian Research Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge
  • 2012-2015: PhD, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
  • 2011-2012: MPhil, King's College, University of Cambridge
  • 2007-2010: BA, King's College, University of Cambridge


My research engages broadly with the global history of science and technology from 1750 to the present day. I also have research interests in the history of slavery and the history of the book.

Before joining Warwick, I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge and held the Adrian Research Fellowship at Darwin College. I have also held research fellowships at the University of Sydney, Harvard University, and the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science.

My first book, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2019), uncovers the making of the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. Skulls were collected in China and Africa, societies cross-circulated journals between Edinburgh and Calcutta, and translations of French phrenological works were imported into Melbourne and Boston. Bringing together museum and archival collections from across the world, Materials of the Mind is the first substantial account of nineteenth-century science as part of global history. It shows how the circulation of skulls, plaster casts, letters and photographs underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind.

I am now working on two projects:

First, a trade book provisionally entitled Origins: A Global History of Science to be published with Penguin | Viking. This book will provide a major reassessment of the rise of modern science. Beginning in the fifteenth century and moving right through to the present, Origins pushes the history of science beyond Europe, exploring the ways in which Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific fit into the story. It presents familiar characters, like Newton and Einstein, in a completely new light, whilst also uncovering the contributions of lesser-known scientists from around the world. From Chinese astronomers and Russian geneticists to South American physicists and Indian mathematicians, this is the story of the scientists who have been written out of history.

Second, a project provisionally entitled Empire of Useful Knowledge: Science, Technology and the Global Politics of Print, 1815–1914. The goal is to reassess the relationship between science and print as part of global history. Historians have long acknowledged the importance of the printing press in shaping new audiences for science in Europe. My research pushes this theme across and beyond European empires. I explore the uneven development of science and print in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. And in doing so, I connect the global history of science to major political questions, addressing themes ranging from technology and slavery to natural history and religion.




Historiographical Reviews

Book Reviews


Public Engagement

I aim to bring the history of science to as wide an audience as possible. I write for national newspapers, websites and magazines including The Guardian and Nature. In 2013 I was shortlisted for the BBC New Generation Thinker Award and in 2012 I was awarded the Best Newcomer Prize by the Association of British Science Writers.

I work closely with museums, curating displays and acting as a consultant for major exhibitions. In the past, I've worked with the Science Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Whipple Musuem, and Cambridge University Library.

I also appear on broadcast media, most recently on Classic FM's true crime podcast, Case Notes.

As part of my public engagement work, I also produce short videos for my YouTube channel.




PhD Supervision

I am very happy to supervise a wide range of PhD topics relating to the history of science, technology or medicine. Please email me in the first instance.


Materials of the Mind