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Jessica Riskin

Jessica Riskin

Professor of History
Early Modern Europe
History of Science
Modern Europe
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 1995
B.A., Harvard University, 1988

Jessica Riskin received her B.A. from Harvard University and her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.  She taught at MIT for several years before coming to Stanford, and has also taught at Sciences Po, Paris.  Her research interests include early modern science, politics and culture and the history of scientific explanation.

Riskin is the author of Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2002), which won the American Historical Association's J. Russell Major Prize for best book in English on any aspect of French history, and the editor of Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and, with Mario Biagioli, of Nature Engaged: Science in Practice from the Renaissance to the Present (Palgrave, 2012). Her new book, The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Debate about What Makes Living Things Tick, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in fall 2015.

Selected Publications & Projects

Jessica Riskin
Empiricism today implies the dispassionate scrutiny of facts. But Jessica Riskin finds that in the French Enlightenment, empiricism was intimately...


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"The Adventures of Mr. Machine, With Morals," in A Cultural History of the Human Body, Vol. 4: A History of the Human Body in the Age of Enlightenment, 1650-1800, ed. Carole Reeves (Oxford: Berg, 2010): Ch 4, pp. 73-92.

"Machines in the Garden." Republics of Letters: A Journal for the Study of Knowledge, Politics, and the Arts 1, no. 2 (April 3, 2010). A second version appears in Mario Biagioli and Jessica Riskin, eds., Nature Engaged: Science in Practice from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012): Ch. 11.

"Amusing Physics." In Joyce E. Chaplin, ed., Harvard Library Bulletin 2007, special catalog issue on Benjamin Franklin. [Reprinted in Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, ed., Science and Spectacle in the European Enlightenment (Ashgate, forthcoming 2007).]

"The Defecating Duck, Or, The Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life." in Critical Inquiry Summer 2003, Vol. 20, no. 4, 599-633. [Reprinted in Bill Brown, ed., Things (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 99-133].

"The Lawyer and the Lightning Rod." In Science in Context, 12, 1 (1999): 61-99. [Reprinted in Susan Silbey, ed., Law and Science Volume I: Epistemological, Evidentiary, and Relational Engagements (Ashgate, forthcoming 2008).]

"Eighteenth Century Wetware"

"Poor Richard's Leyden Jar: Electricity and Economy in Franklinist France"

"Rival Idioms for a Revolutionized Science and a Republican Citizenry"