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Alyssa Peterson

(History of Science and Medicine Fellow, 2020-21)
Alyssa Peterson

Alyssa Peterson

History of Science and Medicine Fellow

“And the Vapours at that time belcht forth from the Earth into the Air”: How Earthquakes Caused Disease in the Long Eighteenth Century

Alyssa is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on Atlantic and Environmental history, as well as the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM). She studies the Atlantic world, from roughly 1600 to 1800, and the creation, circulation, and transformation of scientific and medical information throughout the greater Atlantic.

Her work looks at how medical practitioners within the Caribbean understood how earthquakes impacted physical and mental health. Because earthquakes were frequent events on islands like Jamaica, residents no long saw them as a product of the “divine” and instead developed environmental explanations ahead of anyone from mainland Europe or North America. Alyssa’s project looks at how the environmental explanations of earthquakes influenced how physicians treated locals in the aftermath of the event vis a vis physicians where these natural disasters were much more infrequent and still attributed to divine causes. By following these epistemological changes from Caribbean colonies back to mainland Europe and North America, she will bring together the study of natural disasters with the changing relationship between environment and medicine that occurred during the broader “Scientific Revolution” of the long eighteenth century.

She received her Master’s in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2016 and her BA in History and Political Science from Indiana University in 2011.