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)
- 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.
- Origins: A Global History of Science (Penguin | Viking, forthcoming 2022)
- Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2019).
- 'Phrenology, correspondence, and the global politics of reform, 1815–1848', The Historical Journal, 60 (2017), pp. 409-442.
- ‘National types: the transatlantic publication and reception of Crania Americana (1839)’, History of Science, 53 (2015), pp. 264-295.
- ‘Sounding in silence: men, machines and the changing environment of naval discipline, 1796–1815’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 48 (2015), pp. 213-232.
- ‘Forgotten dreams: recalling the patient in British psychotherapy, 1945–1960’, Medical History, 59 (2015), pp. 241-254.
- 'Science in history', The Historical Journal (published online, forthcoming in print, 2019).
- 'Sebastian Conrad, What is Global History? (Princeton, NJ, 2016)', Itinerario, 40 (2016), pp. 334-335.
- ‘William Burns, The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective (Oxford, 2015)’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 48 (2015), pp. 689-690.
- ‘David Lambert, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen's African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (Chicago, 2013)’, Reviews in History, review no. 1655 (2014).
- ‘Bernard Lightman, Gordon McOuat, and Larry Stewart (eds), The Circulation of Knowledge between Britain, India and China (Brill, 2013)’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 47 (2014), pp. 567-569.
- 'Five millennia of Indian science', Nature, 18 October 2017.
- 'Ten global milestones in the history of science and technology', BBC History: The Story of Science and Technology, September 2017.
- ‘Victorian phrenology’, BBC History Magazine, 3 December 2015.
‘Skulls in print’, University of Cambridge: Research News, 19 February 2014.
‘Django Unchained and phrenology’, The Guardian, 5 February 2013.
‘Letters of Alfred Russel Wallace go online’, Nature, 23 January 2013.
‘Mathematics: a life computed’, Nature 486: 321, 2012.
- 'Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men', The Guardian, 19 October 2012.
- 'Scott's Last Expedition', The Guardian, 20 January 2012.
‘Big science in a big world’, Physics World, 30 September 2011.
‘From Arabick Roots to the Arab Spring’, The Guardian, 25 July 2011.
- 'A chance to meet real live scientists', The Guardian, 6 July 2011.
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.
- HI153 Making of the Modern World (first-year core module)
- HI2D5 Science, Technology and Society, 1400 to Present (second-year option module)
- HI3H4 Empire of the Book: The Global Politics of Print, 1750-1950 (final-year Special Subject module)
- BS349 Science Communication (third-year module in School of Life Sciences)
- IL023 Genetics and Society (interdisciplinary option module in the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning)
- HI996 MA Themes in the History of Sexuality and Gender
- HI998 MA Modern History
- HI999 MA Themes in the History of Science
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.