Emma Spary

Professor of the History of Modern Knowledge
Fellow of Corpus Christi College
Chair of the History and Modern Languages Tripos (2021-2023)
Emma Spary
After taking my PhD in 1993 as a Research Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge, I then worked at the University of Warwick, the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, and the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL before returning to Cambridge to take up a position in the Faculty of History in 2010.

I teach on the following papers: Part IA, Outline 6, 'The Global Eighteenth Century'; Part II, Paper 11, 'Early Medicine' and Paper 14, 'The Material Culture of the Early Modern World'. 


Tags & Themes


Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, CB2 1RH


Key publications


Utopia's Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Le Jardin de l’Utopie: l’histoire naturelle en France entre Ancien Régime et Révolution. Paris: Editions du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 2005. A translation of the above.

Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Feeding France: New Sciences of Food, 1760-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Articles and book chapters:

“The ‘Nature’ of Enlightenment”, in The Sciences in Enlightened Europe, ed. W. Clark, S. Schaffer and J. Golinski. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 272-304.

“Codes of Passion: Natural History Specimens as a Polite Language in Late Eighteenth-Century France”, in Wissenschaft als kulturelle Praxis, 1750-1900, ed. P. H. Reill and J. Schlumbohm, Göttingen: Vanderhoek & Ruprecht, 1999, pp. 105-135.

“Forging Nature at the Republican Muséum”, in The Faces of Nature in Enlightenment Europe, ed. L. Daston and G. Pomata. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2003, pp. 163-180.

“Scientific Symmetries”, History of Science 62 (2004): 1-46.

“‘Peaches which the Patriarchs Lacked’: Natural History, Natural Resources, and the Natural Economy in Eighteenth-Century France”, in History of Political Economy, supplement to vol. 35, ed. N. De Marchi and M. Schabas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004, pp. 14-41.

“Of Nutmegs and Botanists: The Colonial Cultivation of Botanical Identity”, in Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World, ed. L. Schiebinger and C. Swan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005, pp. 187-203.

“Pierre Pomet’s Parisian Cabinet: Revisiting the Visible and the Invisible in Early Modern Collections”, in From Private to Public: Natural Collections and Museums, ed. M. Beretta. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2005, pp. 59-80.

“Kennerschaft versus chemische Expertise. Was es im Paris des 18. Jahrhunderts über Nahrungsmittel zu wissen gab”, in Wissenschaftsgeschichte und Geschichte des Wissens im Dialog, ed. K. von Greyerz et al. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2013, pp. 35-60.

“The Naturalist Collecting Community in Paris, 1760—1789: A Preliminary Survey”, Acta Historica Leopoldina, 70 (2018): 297-324.

“Climate Change and Creolisation in French Natural History, 1750-1795“, in Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: Race and Natural History, 1750-1850, ed. N. Rupke and G. Lauer. London: Routledge, 2018, pp. 53-79.

“On the Ironic Specimen of the Unicorn Horn in Enlightened Cabinets”, Journal of Social History, special issue “Animal Bodies”, ed. A. Ross, 2019, pp. 1-28.
“Tasting Liberty”, in Life in Revolutionary France, ed. M. Harder and J. Heuer. New York: Bloomsbury, 2020, Chapter 10.

“Publishing Virtue: Medical Entrepreneurship and Reputation in the Republic of Letters”, Centaurus 62 (2020): 498–521. https://doi.org/10.1111/1600-0498.12291

“On the Virtues of Historical Entomophagy“, Osiris, vol. 35, Food Matters: Critical Histories of Food and the Sciences, 2020, Chapter 1 (co-authored with A. Zilberstein).

“Diet within Reason”, in A Cultural History of Medicine, vol. 4: The Age of Enlightenment, ed. L. Smith. Oxford: Berg, 2021.

Opium, Experimentation, and Alterity in France”, The Historical Journal 65 (2022): 49-67. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X21000297

Edited collections:
Cultures of Natural History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 (co-edited with N. Jardine and J. A. Secord).

Sammeln als Wissen, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2001 (co-edited with A. te Heesen).

Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 (co-edited with U. Klein).

 “Assimilating Knowledge: Food and Nutrition in Early Modern Physiologies”, special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43.2 (2012) (co-edited with B. Orland).

“Centre and Periphery in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg ‘Medical Empire’”, forum in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43.3 (2012) (editor).

Worlds of Natural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018 (co-edited with N. Jardine, J. A. Secord and H. A. Curry).

Food Matters: Critical Histories of Food and the Sciences, Osiris, vol. 35, 2020 (co-edited with A. Zilberstein).

The Matter of Mimesis. Dordrecht: Brill, forthcoming 2022 (co-edited with M. Bol).