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Vera Keller

Vera Keller profile picture
  • Affiliation: faculty
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-6903
  • Office: 309 McKenzie Hall

I am primarily a historian of science of early modern Europe. I research the origins of experimental science by looking at the intersections between technology, industry and political economy; craft and philosophy; sociability and science; and ideas of innovation, projects, and the public interest.

My first book, Knowledge and the Public Interest, 1575-1725 (Cambridge, 2015), explored the once novel idea, now a truism, that knowledge should “serve the public interest.” It looked at the simultaneous rise of the reason of state – the precursor to ideas of private and public interest – and experimental reasoning, arguing that each shaped the other. More specifically, it did so by tracking the practice of keeping wish lists stating what goals should be pursued for the benefits of humanity. These lists, like the idea of linking knowledge to a public interest more generally, were once radical and contested. Termed “desiderata” in Francis Bacon’s influential formulation, these lists have now become mundane in academic parlance, so successful were these 17th-century attempts to retool knowledge towards the cumulative pursuit of collective future goals.

Read Larry Stewart’s review of the book here:

and Michael Hunter’s here:

My second book project, The Interlopers: Cornelis Drebbel (1572-1633) and early Stuart Projects on the World Stage further explores Bacon’s context and the wild projecting that gave rise to many of the futuristic and improbable goals listed on early modern wish lists.

My third book project, currently in progress and tentatively entitled The Experimental Century: Curating the Early German Enlightenment looks at how late 17th-century German academics sought to reign in, winnow, connect and re-order three previous epistemic cultures: the court culture explored in my first book, mercantile and medical collecting networks, and pansophic erudition.

In addition to these book projects, I have edited four volumes and special issues, most recently Archival Afterlives, with Anna Marie Roos and Beth Yale.

I have authored or co-authored numerous articles, most recently, “Deprogramming Baconianism”:

For a full list of publications, see my CV.

Along with Markus Friedrich and Christine von Oertzen, I am co-editing a new book series from De Gruyter, Cultures and Practices of Knowledge in History:

Along with PI Anna Marie Roos (Lincoln), I am co-investigator in an international research project on the history of collecting connected to my third book, and funded with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

I am currently accepting graduate students.