John Tresch

Mellon Professor in Art History, History of Science and Folk Practice


John Tresch holds the Mellon Chair in History of Art, Science and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Trained in history of science, anthropology, and philosophy, his work focuses on changing concepts, methods, instruments, and institutions in the sciences, arts, and media; connections among scientific disciplines, social orders, rituals, technologies, and cosmologies; and shifting definitions of the rational and real.

His book, The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon, won the History of Science Society's Pfizer Award for Outstanding Book in 2013. His next book, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science, examines the author’s technical obsessions in the light of the unruly culture of popular science in the early nineteenth century. His other ongoing projects examine representations of the universe, or “cosmograms,” as a tool for comparing natural orders, and the history, social settings, and philosophical implications of neuroscience. He is editor-in-chief of the History of Anthropology Newsletter.

From 2006 to 2018 he taught in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He has held fellowships from Columbia's Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Northwestern, the University of Chicago’s Franke Institute, the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Huntington Library, the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and has been visiting researcher at King's College London and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.


Ph.D., History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University
Ancien élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, concours B'/L
D.E.A., Sciences Sociales, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales/ ENS-Ulm
B.A., Anthropology, University of Chicago

Selected Publications

Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge. Collection co-edited with Simon Schaffer and Pasquale Gagliardi, Palgrave, 2017.

The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Audio/VisualSpecial Issue of Grey Room Quarterly on media studies and history of science, co-edited with Mara Mills (NYU). Introduction and "The Prophet and the Pendulum: Popular Science and Audiovisual Phantasmagoria around 1848" (43), 2011.

"'Matter No More': Edgar Allan Poe and the Paradoxes of Materialism." Critical Inquiry (43), 2016. Winner of the 2016 Poe Studies Association Gardano Award for outstanding article on Poe.

"Every Society Invents the Failed Utopia It Deserves." On history, fiction, and utopia. Public Domain Review, 2016.

"Anthropotechniques for the Anthropocene" Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, "Technosphere," 2016.