I am a Lecturer (Assistant Professor in US terms) in the Department of History at Lancaster University in the UK. I am a historian of science and medicine, focusing on the period 1650-1800. You can contact me on a.wragge-morley@lancaster.ac.uk.

Through my research and teaching, I seek to understand how people in the past obtained knowledge through sensory experience. In particular, I ask how scientific and medical practitioners have related the pleasures and pains of the senses to the work of knowledge production. In doing so, I bring together histories of science, medicine, the body, the neurosciences, art, literature, and religion. In addition, I am committed to discussing the place of the feelings and emotions in our experiences of the arts and sciences with broader audiences, whether through writing, podcasts, or film.

My first book, Aesthetic Science: Representing Nature in the Royal Society of London, 1650-1720, came out this year with the University of Chicago Press. In this book, I rethink the origins of the empirical sciences in early modern Britain, arguing that sensory pleasure played a far more important role than has so far been recognized. The scientists affiliated to the seventeenth-century Royal Society of London have long been regarded as forerunners of modern empiricism. Aesthetic Science challenges this interpretation, demonstrating that judgments of taste and the pleasures of aesthetic experience had a central role in the emergence of what we now understand as scientific objectivity. Aesthetic Science thus shows that the histories of science and aesthetics – understood as the attempt to understand sensory experience – were far more closely intertwined than has so far been recognized. In addition, the book argues that the theory and practices associated with aesthetics are crucial tools for helping us to understand and interpret shared scientific experiences.

CHOICE magazine picked Aesthetic Science as one of its Outstanding Academic Titles for 2020, arguing that “It should be in every library with strengths in intellectual history, European history, or the history and philosophy of science.” The Journal of British Studies described it as “”Thought-provoking, useful, and ambitious. . . Aesthetic Science is going to become a staple for history of science postgraduates and specialists alike.” Meanwhile, Archives of Natural History stated that “Aesthetic Science asks us to re-entangle notions of belief, beauty and knowledge in ways that should have a profound impact on how we approach the study of early modern science.”

If you would like to set Aesthetic Science for one of your classes, I would be more than happy to drop in to discuss it with your students, whether remotely or – if I’m close enough – in person.

I have a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Before coming to Lancaster, I taught at the University of Oxford, University College London, and New York University. Additionally, I held a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship at University College London, and a postdoctoral fellowship jointly at the California Institute of Technology and The Huntington Library.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s