Smith, Pamela H.

Seth Low Professor of History; Director of the Center for Science and Society

Pamela Smith's CV


Office Hours

Fall 2020: ON LEAVE (with office hours by appointment)



Ph.D. — The Johns Hopkins University, 1991
B.A. (Hons) — University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, 1979


Interests and Research

Pamela H. Smith, professor, specializes in early modern European history and the history of science. Her current research focuses on attitudes to nature in early modern Europe and the Scientific Revolution, with particular attention to craft knowledge and historical techniques.  She is founding director of The Making and Knowing Project, founding director of The Center for Science and Society, and chair of Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience.

In The News:




Transforming Texts: Textual Analysis, Literary Modeling, and Visualization
Wednesdays 2:10-4pm and Friday labs 1-2pm

This hybrid course, designed for graduate and advanced undergraduate students in the social sciences and humanities, and computer science students interested in VR and AR visualization, is situated at the crossroads of historical exploration and computer sciences. Students will be exposed to digital literacy tools and computational skills through the lens of the Making and Knowing Project.

The edition will draw on collaboration with and research done by the Making and Knowing Project on an anonymous sixteenth-century French compilation of artistic and technical recipes (BnF Ms. Fr. 640). You will be working from the encoded English translation of the manuscript, prepared by the Spring 2017 course “HIST GR8975 What is a Book in the 21st Century? Working with Historical Texts in a Digital Environment.” This course will also utilize the concepts and prototypes developed by computer science students in the Spring 2018 “COMS W4172: 3D User Interfaces and Augmented Reality (AR).

This rare French manuscript resulted from the compilation of craft knowledge over time, followed by its subsequent “disassembly” in a late sixteenth-century workshop by an author-compiler-practitioner who experiments on techniques contained in the manuscript’s “recipes.” While this course will focus on this intriguing manuscript and the research that has been carried out on it, the skills students will learn over the course of the semester are widely applicable to other types of Digital Humanities projects, and indeed, in many fields outside of traditional academic study.

For the final project, students will collaborate to investigate linguistic features of Ms. Fr. 640 using natural language processing and text mining techniques. These projects will shed light on topics of interest within the manuscript and uncover connections within the textual data. By using the tools prototyped in the Spring 2018 COMS W4172 course, and working alongside COMS students, groups will learn to adapt and recode data sets, as well as view them in a variety of visualization formats.


Craft and Science: Objects and Their Making in the Early Modern World
Fall 2018: Mondays 10:10am-2:00pm

Pamela Smith and the Making and Knowing Team

This course studies the materials, techniques, settings, and meanings of skilled craft and artistic practices in the early modern period (1350-1750), in order to reflect upon a series of issues, including craft knowledge and artisanal epistemology; the intersections between craft and science; and questions of historical methodology and evidence in the reconstruction of historical experience. The course will be run as a “Laboratory Seminar,” with discussions of primary and secondary materials, as well as text- and object-based research and hands-on work in a laboratory. One component of the Making and Knowing Project of the Center for Science and Society, this course contributes to the collaborative production of a transcription, English translation, and critical edition of a late sixteenth-century manuscript in French, BnF Ms. Fr. 640. In fall 2018, the course will focus on the cultural context, materials, and techniques of “making impressions” upon a variety of surfaces, including making reliefs for ornament and for printing, and inscribing metal, including engraving and etching. Several entries in the manuscript use what we think of as “print techniques” for metal decoration or making seals and molds, and other entries discuss printers’ type, and make use of prints for image transfer. Students will begin with skill-building exercises in culinary reconstruction, pigment making, and molding, and then, with advice from a visiting “expert maker,” will choose a research focus from the entries in the manuscript that cover such topics as draftsmanship, engraving techniques, print transfer, and other topics that intersect with printing and printmaking. The course will be taught this year only in fall 2018. It is not necessary to have either prior lab experience or French language skills. Please don't hesitate to contact Pamela Smith,, if you have questions.

For more information, visit The Making and Knowing Project online and the photo repository from the lab reconstruction experiments.

Follow The Making and Knowing Project on Twitter.


  • HIST G9102: Knowledge in Transit in the Early Modern World
  • HIST W3103: Alchemy, Magic, and Science
  • HIST 4101: The World We Have Lost: Daily Life in Pre-Modern Europe
  • HIST W4120: Witchcraft and the State in Early Modern Europe
  • HIST G9101: Material Culture and the Life of Objects in Early Modern Europe



  • The Eugene S. Ferguson award to The Making and Knowing Project for a reference work that supports future scholarship in the history of technology, 2019
  • Leo Gershoy Prize for The Body of the Artisan awarded in early modern European History by the American Historical Association, 2005
  • Pfizer Prize for The Business of Alchemy awarded for best book of the year in the history of science by the History of Science Society, 1995
  • Scholar in Residence, Robert H. Smith Renaissance Sculpture in Context, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, May 2012
  • Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, July 2011
  • Alliance Program, seed grant for project on “Circulating and Connecting Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, 1450-1850,” with Bruno Belhoste, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, 2009-10
  • Fellow, Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, 2009-10
  • Samuel H. Kress Paired Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., co-grantee Tonny Beentjes, Programme Leader, Metalwork Conservation, Instituut Collectie Nederland (ICN), Amsterdam. 2007-08
  • NSF Grant #SES-0444302 for Conference on "Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge," London 11-15 July 2005
  • Andrew Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship for research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2003-04, 2009-10
  • Getty Research Institute Scholar, 2000-01
  • Visiting Fellow, Downing College, Cambridge, 2000
  • John S. Guggenheim Fellow, 1997-98
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship, 1997-98
  • Sidney M. Edelstein International Fellowship for research in the history of chemistry, 1997-98
  • Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg - Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin, 1994-95




Pamela H. Smith, ed., Entangled Itineraries: Materials, Practices, and Knowledges across Eurasia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019).

The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices, Cultural Logics, c. 1250-1750, co-edited with Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop (Manchester University Press, 2014).

Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, co-edited with Amy Meyers and Harold J. Cook (Bard Graduate Center/University of Chicago Press, 2014; new ed. 2017).

Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400-1800, co-edited with Benjamin Schmidt (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2004; 2018).

Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe, co-edited with Paula Findlen (Routledge, 2002).

The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire (Princeton University Press, 1994, new ed. 2016).

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Digital Edition:
The Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano, eds., Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640 (New York: The Making and Knowing Project, 2020), 

“Artisanal Epistemology,” Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Marco Sgarbi (Springer, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1182-1), 2018.

“Des recettes et des secrets à l’expérience: le “Making and Knowing Project,” Toulouse Renaissance, Musée des Augustins, Toulouse (Paris: Somogy éditions d’art, 2018): 340-43.

“The Codification of Vernacular Theories of Metallic Generation in sixteenth-century European Mining and Metalworking,” The Structures of Practical Knowledge: Toward Early Modern Science, Matteo Valeriani, ed. (Springer/Dordrecht, 2016).

Guest Editor, New Directions in Making and Knowing, a special issue of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 23.1 (2016): 3-101, with 4 invited essays, and an introduction (3-5), including “The Making and Knowing Project - Reflections, Methods, and New Directions,” co-authored with Donna Bilak, Jenny Boulboullé, and Joel Klein (Postdoctoral Scholars, the Making and Knowing Project): 35-55.

“Historians in the Laboratory: Reconstruction of Renaissance Art and Technology in the Making and Knowing Project,” Art History, special issue on Art and Technology, 39.2 (2016): 210-233 (co-authored with the Making and Knowing Team; students from the 2014-15 Columbia University course, Hist G8906: Craft and Science: Making Objects in the Early Modern World; students in the University of Amsterdam M.A. in conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, metals specialization course; and students from the V&A/RCA PhD in History of Design).

“Introduction” and “The Matter of Ideas in the Working of Metals in Early Modern Europe,” The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices, Cultural Logics, c. 1250-1750, Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop, Pamela H. Smith, eds. (Manchester University Press, 2015.)

“Between Nature and Art: Casting from Life in Sixteenth-Century Europe,” Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts, Elizabeth Hallam and Tim Ingold, eds. (Ashgate, 2014).

“Introduction” and “Making as Knowing: Craft as Natural Philosophy,” Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, co-edited with Amy Meyers and Harold J. Cook (Bard Graduate Center/University of Michigan Press, 2014).

“Knowledge in Motion: Following Itineraries of Matter in the Early Modern World,” in Daniel Rogers, Bhavani Raman, Helmut Reimitz, eds, Cultures in Motion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 109-33.

“The History of Science as a Cultural History of the Material World,” Cultural Histories of the Material World, ed. by Peter Miller (University of Michigan Press, 2013), 210-225.

“Making Things: Techniques and books in early modern Europe,” Things, Paula Findlen, ed. (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 173-203.

“In the Workshop of History: Making, Writing, and Meaning,” Shaping Objects: Art, Materials, Making, and Meanings in the Early Modern World, an article series of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, 19 (2012): 4-31.

“What is a Secret?  Secrets and Craft Knowledge in Early Modern Europe,” Secrets and Knowledge in Medicine and Science, 1500-1800, ed. by Elaine Leong and Alisha Rankin (Ashgate, 2011): 47-66.

“Science,” A Concise Companion to History, ed. by Ulinka Rublack (Oxford University Press, 2011): 268-97.

“Why Write a Book? From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, 47 (Fall 2010): 25-50. Online link:

“Nature and Art, Making and Knowing: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Life Casting Techniques” (with Tonny Beentjes), Renaissance Quarterly, 63 (2010): 128-179.

“Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking,” in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory,” ed. by Ursula Klein and Emma Spary (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 29-49.

“Science in Motion: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science,” Renaissance Quarterly,62 (2009): 345-375.

“Alchemy as the Imitator of Nature,” Glass of the Alchemists, catalog for an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass, ed. by Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk (Corning Museum of Glass, 2008), pp. 22-33.

“Collecting Nature and Art: Artisans and Knowledge in the Kunstkammer,” in Engaging With Nature: Essays on the Natural World in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Barbara Hannawalt and Lisa Kiser (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), pp. 115-136.

“Artisanal Knowledge and the Representation of Nature in Sixteenth-Century Germany,” The Art and History of Botanical and Natural History Treatises, ed. Therese O'Malley and Amy Meyers (Washington D.C., The National Gallery Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts, 2008), 14-31.

“Making and Knowing in a Sixteenth-century Goldsmith’s Workshop,” in The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention between the Late Renaissance and Early Industrialization, ed. Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer, Peter Dear (Amsterdam: KNAW Press, 2007), 20-37.

“Laboratories,” ch. 13, The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 3: Early Modern Europe, ed. Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 290-305.

“Art, Science and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe,” Isis, 97 (2006): 83-100.

“Giving Voice to the Hands: The Articulation of Material Literacy in the Sixteenth Century,” Popular Literacy: Studies in Cultural Practices and Poetics, ed. John Trimbur, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, pp. 74-93.

“Science and Taste: Painting, the Passions, and the New Philosophy in Seventeenth-century Leiden,” Isis, 90 (1999): 420-461.



  • Renaissance Society of America
      ◦ President 2016-18 (Vice President 2014-16; Past President 2018-20)
      ◦ Associate Editor, Renaissance Quarterly and Council Member, 2006-12
      ◦ Gordan Prize Committee member, 2008-09.
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2013-2019.
  • Board of Editors, History of the Humanities, 2014-present
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Modern History, 2014-present
  • Steering Committee, V&A Research Institute, 2014-2016
  • Advisory Board member, Genius Before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science, ERC grant project, Cambridge University, 2014-
  • Expert Advisory Committee, Library of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2014-
  • Editorial Board, Early Modern Cultural Studies, Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, University of Toronto, 2016-
  • Advisory Board, The Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, the University of Chicago, 2014-
  • American Historical Association
      ◦ Board of Editors, American Historical Review, 2008-11
      ◦ Executive Council, 2004-06 (elected position)
      ◦ Research Division Committee member, 2005-06
      ◦ Gershoy Prize Committee, 1996-98
  • History of Science Society
      ◦ Nominating Committee member (elected position), 2000-01 and 2008-09
      ◦ Executive Committee member, History of Science Society, New York Section, 2008-present
      ◦ Osiris Editorial Board, 2000-04
      ◦ Executive Council (elected position), 2000-02
      ◦ Committee on Education, 2000-02, Chair 20001-02
      ◦ Isis Editorial Board, 1997-2000
      ◦ President, West Coast History of Science Society, 1997
  • Society for Austrian and Habsburg History, Executive Council, 2003-08
  • Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, Advisory Board, 2008-present
  • Bard Graduate Center and University of Michigan Press series, "Cultural Histories of the World," -External Editorial Board Member, 2009-present
  • Interpretatio: Sources and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Classical Science, Editorial Advisory Board member, 2007-present