James Delbourgo

Associate Professor: History of Science and Atlantic World

Rutgers University

James Delbourgo is a historian of early modern science and the Atlantic world. He previously taught at McGill University, Montreal, where he directed the program in History and Philosophy of Science. His interests range from physical science and experiment to natural history and travel, and the intersections between them in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including topics such as history of the body; experimental apparatus; collecting, ethnography, and race; and the movement of objects, specimens and techniques through imperial and global networks.

He is completing a book on Hans Sloane's voyage to Jamaica and its eighteenth-century aftermaths, which explores the mechanics and meanings of early modern global collecting, under the provisional title "Empire in the Cabinet of Curiosities." The book is based on extensive research in the British Library Sloane manuscripts, and the specimen and object collections of the Natural History Museum and British Museum, and is affiliated with an ongoing collaborative project between these three institutions to integrate and digitize the collections entitled “Reconstructing Sloane.” The book will be published by Penguin in the UK and the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in the US. Delbourgo's exhibit on Sloane's Jamaica voyage, entitled "Voyage to the Islands," will open at the John Carter Brown Library in May 2012.

He has co-organized international conferences on the history of science and colonial history at UCLA, USC, McGill, Rutgers, Cambridge and the British Library.  In 2010 these included “Collecting Things, Collecting People” at Rutgers; a conference on Hans Sloane at the British Library; and “In Kind: Species of Exchange in Early Modern Science and Philosophy” at CRASSH, University of Cambridge.  He has reviewed and refereed for numerous journals, including the Times Higher Educational Supplement, and is currently a member of the editorial board of Isis.

At Rutgers, he is active in the Program in the History of Science, Technology, Environment and Health (STEH), and its speaker series. With Toby Jones he will co-direct the RCHA program for 2012-2014, entitled “Networks of Exchange: Mobilities of Knowledge in a Globalized World.” His teaching includes history of science & science studies, history of collecting, the Enlightenment, Atlantic world, early American and colonial history.

He is the author of A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America, winner of the 2005 Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize.