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Faculty Photo
Photo Credit: Nick Romanenko
Front row: (L-R) Nancy Sinkoff, Paul Hanebrink, James Delbourgo, Rudy Bell, Paul Israel, Paul G. E. Clemens
2nd: Judith Surkis, Matt Matsuda, Carolyn Brown, Johanna Schoen, Walter Rucker, Marisa Fuentes, Bayo Holsey, Samantha Kelly, Toby C. Jones
3rd: Jackson Lears, Seth Koven, Gail Triner, Ann Fabian, Barbara M. Cooper, Temma Kaplan, Melissa Feinberg
Last: Louis Masur, Jamie Pietruska, Mark Wasserman, David Greenberg, Alastair Bellany, Steven Reinert, Deborah Gray White, Norman Markowitz, John W. Chambers, Virginia Yans, Leah DeVun, Camilla Townsend, Sarolta Takacs, Don Roden

 

James Delbourgo

Associate Professor: History of Science
and Atlantic World

Ph.D., Columbia, 2003

M.Phil., Cambridge, 1997

B.A., University of East Anglia, 1996

At Rutgers since 2008

104 Van Dyck Hall
848-932-8548
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RESEARCH INTERESTS

James Delbourgo was born in Great Britain and educated at East Anglia, Cambridge (Christ's College) and Columbia, and previously taught at McGill University, Montreal, where he directed the program in History and Philosophy of Science. His research combines the history of science with imperial and global history and, most recently, the history and sociology of collecting and museums.

His first book explored the practice of bodily electrical experimentation in colonial British America and the early United States, including but moving beyond the figure of Benjamin Franklin, and assessing the larger meaning of the American Enlightenment through transatlantic and Creole scientific culture. Since then, he has co-edited two collections of essays: one on Iberian, French and British perspectives on science and empire in the early modern Atlantic world; and the other on the role of go-betweens in making scientific knowledge across the globe during the decades around the turn of the nineteenth century. He has also published essays on underwater collecting and Caribbean salvage diving in the late seventeenth century; on colonial Jamaican natural history, cacao and the invention of milk chocolate; on the use of Newtonian optical theory and anatomical dissection to theorize African skin color in 1740s Virginia; on the dyeing, novelistic and chemical projects of the loyalist spy Edward Bancroft in Dutch Guiana during the era of the American Revolution; a co-edited focus section in the journal Isis on the scientific use of lists in the early modern era; and a co-edited special issue of Annals of Science on the history and philosophy of species in early modern science.

Delbourgo has published essays in English, French and German, including articles on current art collecting practices in the Los Angeles Review of Books; on the history and politics of cabinets of curiosity in contemporary art, and the rise of 'clutterology' in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review; and on Benjamin Franklin and the Cold War origins of American science historiography in the Raritan Quarterly. A recent essay on the relationship between curiosity and slavery in wonder-cabinets and abolitionism appeared in the catalogue for an exhibition called "Assozitionsraum Wunderkammer" in Halle, Germany, featuring work by David Lynch, Lars von Trier and others. Delbourgo is a member of the editorial board of the journal History of Science.

He is currently completing a book on early modern global natural history collecting and the career of Hans Sloane, which culminated in the creation of the British Museum in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. The book examines Sloane's career from his background in Ulster to his voyage to Jamaica and his creation of a network of collectors who gathered curiosities for him throughout the world, through to the foundation of the British Museum. It draws on the histories of science, medicine and collecting, as well as Caribbean, imperial and global histories, and is based on extensive research in Sloane's surviving specimens, objects, manuscripts and catalogues in London's Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the British Library. The book will be the first study of Sloane in over 60 years, providing a major reassessment of his career and legacy, and will be published by Penguin in the UK and Harvard in the US and Canada.

Delbourgo's John Carter Brown Library exhibit on Sloane's Jamaica voyage, entitled "Voyage to the Islands," (2012) is viewable online.

At Rutgers, he is active in the Program in the History of Science, Technology, Environment and Health (STEH). With Toby Jones he is co-director of the RCHA program for 2012-2015, “Networks of Exchange: Mobilities of Knowledge in a Globalized World.”

His teaching includes Atlantic world history, history of science, collecting and museums, and the Enlightenment. In 2013, he taught a graduate colloquium on 'Collecting the World: Assembling Objects from Antiquity to the Present': read the syllabus here.

COURSES REGULARLY TAUGHT

Undergraduate

  • 506:251 Science and Society
  • 510:321 Age of Enlightenment
  • 510:340 British Atlantic World
  • 512:103 Development of US I

SELECT PUBLICATIONS

AWARDS

  • Thomas J. Wilson Prize, Harvard University Press, for A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders, 2006.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant, “Beyond the New Atlantis,” 2005-2009.

SELECT FELLOWSHIPS

  • Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Publication Grant, 2014.
  • American Philosophical Society/British Academy Fellowship, 2013.
  • Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Fall 2013.
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Fall 2011.
  • Rutgers University, Center for Cultural Analysis, 2009.
  • University of Cambridge: Visiting Fellow, CRASSH, Lent 2008.
  • University of Pennsylvania: Dissertation Fellow, McNeil Center, 2001-2002.
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“Enlisting People,” in “Listmania,” Isis forum, co-ed. Staffan Müller-Wille (Dec. 2012).

“Collecting Hans Sloane,” in From Books to Bezoars (London: British Library Books, 2012)

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