Katharine Park

Katharine Park

Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Research Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus
Katharine Park
  • Region(s): Europe
  • Time Period(s): 15th century; 16th century; 17th century; 18th century
  • Theme(s): History of Science; History of Medicine; History of Gender and Sexuality


Katharine Park’s research and teaching focuses on the history of science and medicine in medieval and early modern Europe, with special attention to gender, sexuality, and the history of the body. Her work stresses the interconnection of knowledge and practice and the importance of relating both to the social, institutional, and cultural contexts that produced them.  She has pushed these interests in several different directions.  One group of works, including her first book, Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence (Princeton University Press, 1985), highlights the importance of studying the work of artisanal and empirical practitioners, male and female, alongside that of university-educated physicians.  In more recent articles, as well as in her monograph, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (Zone Books, 2006), she describes the way in which the medical technique of human dissection grew out of empirical practices such embalming, forensic autopsies, midwifing procedures, and obstetrical surgery.

Additional areas of interest include the visual cultures of medieval and early modern science, including the use of allegorical imagery to express changing attitudes toward nature and human authority; the history of ideas of sex difference and sexuality in medieval and early modern natural philosophy and medicine; and changing ideas of the natural order reflected in the intense fascination with wonders and miracles on the part of all sectors of European society in this period.  The last is the subject of the book she co-authored with Lorraine Daston, "Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750" (Zone Books, 1998).  She and Daston also co-edited volume 3 of "The Cambridge History of Science" (Cambridge University Press, 2006), on science in early modern Europe. Park is currently working on two separate projects.  "Knowledge on the Move: Scientific Encounters Between the Muslim and Christian Worlds," a collaboration with Professor Ahmed Ragab of the Harvard Divinity School, aims to produce a new, integrated narrative of the history of medieval science that emphasizes the ongoing circulation of people, knowledge, objects, and texts between the Islamicate lands and Latin Christian Europe.  "The Science of the Senses: Experience and Observation in Medieval Science," a book-in-progress, will emphasize the role of sensory inquiry in a field often mischaracterized as entirely based on textual learning and will argue the existence of important continuities between early modern empirical and experimental practices and their medieval analogues.  Early versions of this argument appear in her articles, “Natural Particulars” (1999) and “Observation on the Margins” (2011).In 2001, "Wonders of Nature," which has also appeared in Italian and German translation, was awarded the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society and the Roland H. Bainton Prize (History and Theology) of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference.  "Secrets of Women" won the Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women and Science Prize of the HSS in 2007 and the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association of the History of Science in 2009, and appeared in French in the same year.  Park was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and was awarded the 2016 Sarton Medal in recognition of her outstanding scholarly achievements.

Park received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of Science, an M.Phil. from the University of London (Warburg Institute) in Combined Historical Studies of the Renaissance, and a B.A. from Radcliffe College in History and Literature (Renaissance and Reformation).

Contact Information

People: Filtered Search

People: Region Search

People: Department Search