Pamela H. Smith

Pamela H. Smith

Research Interest


Ph.D. — The Johns Hopkins University, 1991
B.A. (Hons) — University Of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, 1979

Interests and Research

Pamela H. Smith, professor, specializes in early modern European history and the history of science. Her current research focuses on attitudes to nature in early modern Europe and the Scientific Revolution, with particular attention to craft knowledge and historical techniques.  She is founding director of the Making and Knowing Project (, founding director of the Center for Science and Society (, and chair of the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience (

Snakes, Lizards, and Manuscripts: Humanists in the Laboratory,” University Lecture, Columbia University, December 2, 2013. Available here:

The Making and Knowing Project, directed by Pamela Smith, was the subject of the talk of the town in the September 26, 2016 issue of the New Yorker "Twenty-First-Century Alchemists"

Columbia College Magazine, “Ancient Workshop Discovers New Ideas

Read about the Making and Knowing Project in the Recipes Project, “A Recipe for Recipe Research: The Making and Knowing Project,” February 2016.  See also “Making ‘Powder for Hourglasses’ in the Early Modern Household.”

WHYY visits Smith's Making and Knowing Project in The power of failure, and other lessons from a 400-year-old 'book of secrets'

Interview with the Columbia Record:

Making and Knowing in Weaving (from Center for Science and Society Conference on Weaving: Cognition, Technology, Culture (April 2017):

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Convenor of the Working Group, "Itineraries of Materials, Recipes, Techniques, and Knowledge in the Early Modern World:"


HIST G8906
Craft and Science:  Objects and Their Making in the Early Modern World
Mondays 10:10am-2pm
This course will study the materials, techniques, settings, and meanings of skilled craft and artistic practices in the early modern period (1350-1750), in order to reflect upon a series of issues, including craft knowledge and artisanal epistemology; the intersections between craft and science; and questions of historical methodology and evidence in the reconstruction of historical experience. The course will be run as a “Laboratory Seminar,” with discussions of primary and secondary materials, as well as text- and object-based research and hands-on work in a laboratory. One component of the Making and Knowing Project of the Center for Science and Society, this course contributes to the collective production of a transcription, English translation, and critical edition of a late sixteenth-century manuscript in French, Ms. Fr. 640. In fall 2017, the course will focus on the cultural context, materials, and techniques of ephemeral artworks. Several entries in the manuscript aim to produce artworks that were intended to stand outside or that aimed to create the visual effect of a more permanent (and expensive) work of art. Students will begin with skillbuilding exercises in pigment making, plaster molding, and then choose a research focus from the entries in the manuscript that cover such topics as “grottos,” imitation rouge clair and enamels, painting on cloth, and other techniques of creating ephemeral artworks.  The course will be taught this year only in fall 2017.

For more information, see The Making and Knowing Project:[email protected]/albums (photo repository from the lab reconstruction experiments)

Follow the Making and Knowing Project on Twitter:

HIST G9102: Knowledge in Transit in the Early Modern World
HIST W3103: Alchemy, Magic, and Science
HIST 4101: The World We Have Lost: Daily Life in Pre-Modern Europe
HIST W4120: Witchcraft and the State in Early Modern Europe
HIST G9101: Material Culture and the Life of Objects in Early Modern Europe


  • Leo Gershoy Prize for The Body of the Artisan awarded in early modern European History by the American Historical Association, 2005
  • Pfizer Prize for The Business of Alchemy awarded for best book of the year in the history of science by the History of Science Society, 1995
  • Scholar in Residence, Robert H. Smith Renaissance Sculpture in Context, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, May 2012.
  • Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, July 2011
  • Alliance Program, seed grant for project on “Circulating and Connecting Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, 1450-1850,” with Bruno Belhoste, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, 2009-10.
  • Fellow, Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, 2009-10
  • Samuel H. Kress Paired Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., co-grantee Tonny Beentjes, Programme Leader, Metalwork Conservation, Instituut Collectie Nederland (ICN), Amsterdam. 2007-08
  • NSF Grant #SES-0444302 for Conference on "Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge," London 11-15 July 2005.
  • Andrew Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship for research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2003-04, 2009-10
  • Getty Research Institute Scholar, 2000-01
  • Visiting Fellow, Downing College, Cambridge, 2000
  • John S. Guggenheim Fellow, 1997-98
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship, 1997-98
  • Sidney M. Edelstein International Fellowship for research in the history of chemistry, 1997-98
  • Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg - Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin, 1994-95


  • Renaissance Society of America
    -President 2016-18 (Vice President 2014-16; Past President 2018-20)
    -Associate Editor, Renaissance Quarterly and Council Member, 2006-12
    -Gordan Prize Committee member, 2008-09.
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2013-2019.
  • Board of Editors, History of the Humanities, 2014-present
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Modern History, 2014-present
  • Steering Committee, V&A Research Institute, 2014-2016
  • Advisory Board member, Genius Before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science, ERC grant project, Cambridge University, 2014-
  • Expert Advisory Committee, Library of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2014-
  • Editorial Board, Early Modern Cultural Studies, Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, University of Toronto, 2016-
  • Advisory Board, The Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, the University of Chicago, 2014-
  • American Historical Association
    -Board of Editors, American Historical Review, 2008-11
    -Executive Council, 2004-06 (elected position)
    -Research Division Committee member, 2005-06
    -Gershoy Prize Committee, 1996-98
  • History of Science Society
    -Nominating Committee member (elected position), 2000-01 and 2008-09
    -Executive Committee member, History of Science Society, New York Section, 2008-present
    -Osiris Editorial Board, 2000-04
    -Executive Council (elected position), 2000-02
    -Committee on Education, 2000-02, Chair 20001-02
    -Isis Editorial Board, 1997-2000
    -President, West Coast History of Science Society, 1997
  • Society for Austrian and Habsburg History, Executive Council, 2003-08
  • Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, Advisory Board, 2008-present
  • Bard Graduate Center and University of Michigan Press series, "Cultural Histories of the World," -External Editorial Board Member, 2009-present
  • Interpretatio: Sources and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Classical Science, Editorial Advisory Board member, 2007-present



The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices, Cultural Logics, c. 1250-1750, co-edited with Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop, Manchester University Press, 2014.

Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, co-edited with Amy Meyers and Harold J. Cook, Bard Graduate Center/University of Michigan Press, 2014.

Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400-1800

The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution

Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe

The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

“The Codification of Vernacular Theories of Metallic Generation in sixteenth-century European Mining and Metalworking,” The Structures of Practical Knowledge: Toward Early Modern Science, Matteo Valeriani, ed. (Springer/Dordrecht, 2016).

Guest Editor, New Directions in Making and Knowing, a special issue of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 23.1 (2016): 3-101, with 4 invited essays, and an introduction (3-5), including “The Making and Knowing Project - Reflections, Methods, and New Directions,” co-authored with Donna Bilak, Jenny Boulboullé, and Joel Klein (Postdoctoral Scholars, the Making and Knowing Project): 35-55.

“Historians in the Laboratory: Reconstruction of Renaissance Art and Technology in the Making and Knowing Project,” Art History, special issue on Art and Technology, 39.2 (2016): 210-233 (co-authored with the Making and Knowing Team; students from the 2014-15 Columbia University course, Hist G8906: Craft and Science: Making Objects in the Early Modern World; students in the University of Amsterdam M.A. in conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, metals specialization course; and students from the V&A/RCA PhD in History of Design).

“Introduction” and “The Matter of Ideas in the Working of Metals in Early Modern Europe,” The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices, Cultural Logics, c. 1250-1750, Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop, Pamela H. Smith, eds. (Manchester University Press, 2015.)

“Between Nature and Art: Casting from Life in Sixteenth-Century Europe,” Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts, Elizabeth Hallam and Tim Ingold, eds. (Ashgate, 2014).

“Introduction” and “Making as Knowing: Craft as Natural Philosophy,” Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge, co-edited with Amy Meyers and Harold J. Cook (Bard Graduate Center/University of Michigan Press, 2014).

“Knowledge in Motion: Following Itineraries of Matter in the Early Modern World,” in Daniel Rogers, Bhavani Raman, Helmut Reimitz, eds, Cultures in Motion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 109-33.

“The History of Science as a Cultural History of the Material World,” Cultural Histories of the Material World, ed. by Peter Miller (University of Michigan Press, 2013), 210-225.

“Making Things: Techniques and books in early modern Europe,” Things, Paula Findlen, ed. (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 173-203.

“In the Workshop of History: Making, Writing, and Meaning,” Shaping Objects: Art, Materials, Making, and Meanings in the Early Modern World, an article series of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture19 (2012): 4-31.

“What is a Secret?  Secrets and Craft Knowledge in Early Modern Europe,” Secrets and Knowledge in Medicine and Science, 1500-1800, ed. by Elaine Leong and Alisha Rankin (Ashgate, 2011): 47-66.

“Science,” A Concise Companion to History, ed. by Ulinka Rublack (Oxford University Press, 2011): 268-97.

“Why Write a Book? From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, 47 (Fall 2010): 25-50. Online link:

“Nature and Art, Making and Knowing: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Life Casting Techniques” (with Tonny Beentjes), Renaissance Quarterly, 63 (2010): 128-179.

“Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking,” inMaterials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory,”ed. by Ursula Klein and Emma Spary (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 29-49.

“Science in Motion: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science,”Renaissance Quarterly,62 (2009): 345-375.

“Alchemy as the Imitator of Nature,” Glass of the Alchemists, catalog for an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass, ed. by Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk (Corning Museum of Glass, 2008), pp. 22-33.

“Collecting Nature and Art: Artisans and Knowledge in the Kunstkammer,” inEngaging With Nature: Essays on the Natural World in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Barbara Hannawalt and Lisa Kiser (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), pp. 115-136.

“Artisanal Knowledge and the Representation of Nature in Sixteenth-Century Germany,” The Art and History of Botanical and Natural History Treatises, ed. Therese O'Malley and Amy Meyers (Washington D.C., The National Gallery Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts, 2008), 14-31.

“Making and Knowing in a Sixteenth-century Goldsmith’s Workshop,” in The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention between the Late Renaissance and Early Industrialization, ed. Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer, Peter Dear (Amsterdam: KNAW Press, 2007), 20-37.

“Laboratories,” ch. 13, The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 3: Early Modern Europe, ed. Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 290-305.

“Art, Science and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe,” Isis, 97 (2006): 83-100.

“Giving Voice to the Hands: The Articulation of Material Literacy in the Sixteenth Century,” Popular Literacy: Studies in Cultural Practices and Poetics, ed. John Trimbur, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001, pp. 74-93.

“Science and Taste: Painting, the Passions, and the New Philosophy in Seventeenth-century Leiden,” Isis, 90 (1999): 420-461.