Fellow Update: Karin Eckholm

Karin Eckholm, 2008-2009 Dissertation Research Fellow, has sent us an update on her activities since leaving PACHS.

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In the spring of 2009, thanks to a PACHS Dissertation Research Fellowship, I enjoyed a very fruitful and stimulating month of research at Philadelphia libraries. My Ph.D. thesis treats early modern investigations and explanations of animal generation, which includes questions of what parents contribute to conception, how seed is produced, and how fetuses organize. I focused on the mid-seventeenth-century work of two English physicians, William Harvey and Nathaniel Highmore. In Philadelphia, I took advantage of the extraordinary rare books collections, especially at the College of Physicians, the University of Pennsylvania and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, to study contemporary anatomy and medical books to which they responded as well as the reception of Harvey’s and Highmore’s work.

A highlight of my visit was examining an early seventeenth-century copy of paintings of fetal animals commissioned by Harvey’s teacher, Fabricius ab Aquapendente, at the College of Physicians. The paintings are on paper and bound with what appear to be drafts of the first colored anatomical prints, Gaspare Aselli’s images in De lactibus (1627). Following my visit to Philadelphia, I examined the original paintings in the Biblioteca Marcia in Venice. I published my findings on the two sets of paintings and the drafts in the Annals of Science (2010).

In addition to the benefits of being able to consult the collections, the PACHS fellowship provided many opportunities to attend colloquia. I enjoyed talks on a broad range of subjects in the history of science and met several scholars with whom I have maintained contact.

A year ago, I defended my dissertation at Indiana University, and since January I have held a research and teaching associateship in HPS at the University of Cambridge. I am part of the ‘Generation to Reproduction’ project funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award. The aim of the project is to reassess the history of reproduction from antiquity through the 21st century. My responsibilities include teaching courses on the history of early modern medicine and science, organizing the weekly departmental colloquium and being a co-organizer of the history of medicine seminars. The ‘Generation to Reproduction’ project sponsors an active program of talks and reading groups, and I have led sessions on spontaneous generation and early modern views on fetal ensoulment. As to my own research, I am currently revising my dissertation for publication.

I greatly enjoy both the lively research community and teaching at Cambridge. As in Philadelphia, I take advantage of colloquia; as with a recent, thought-provoking presentation on Naturphilosophie and reproduction, and a talk on the transmission of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura. Beyond the university, life in Cambridge is very good. My husband and I relish bicycle rides in the surrounding countryside (where during the summer we picked buckets of wild berries and apples) and I love few things more than running among grazing cows on Granchester Meadows.
My findings in libraries and contacts I made in Philadelphia played a formative role in my research and in preparing me for my work in Cambridge. I remain grateful to PACHS, the librarians at member libraries and those whom I encountered during my fellowship.

Karin Eckholm
November 2011