Beth Petitjean

(Residential Fellow, 2020-21)

Beth Petitjean

Beth Petitjean

Residential Fellow

Understanding the Water: Medicine, Mineral Water, and Early Modern Chemistry

Beth earned her PhD in History in December 2019 from Saint Louis University. Her dissertation, “The Baths and the Medici: Taking the Waters in Grand Ducal Tuscany, 1537-1790,” reconstructs and analyzes thermal baths as significant features of early modern medical, scientific, and court cultures. Her dissertation won the 2019 Distinguished Dissertation Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Louis University. She is currently working on revisions for the book manuscript, which will highlight how Italian thermal baths became sites of new chemical knowledge.

Her research investigates how the methods of analyzing mineral waters changed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and how they were intertwined with advances in early modern chemistry. She studies balneology treatises written by Italian physicians and scientists in tandem with those written by scholars affiliated with scientific societies elsewhere in Europe to argue that correspondence between the societies and the publication and circulation of scientific treatises created networks of information that were mutually influential.

During her research fellowship at the Linda Hall Library, Beth will work with early modern treatises on chemistry, balneology, and medicine to trace the evolution of mineral water analysis and the influence of Italian scientists and their work on Italian baths within the larger context of the European scientific community.

Beth has worked as an Instructor at Saint Louis University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and St. Louis Community College, teaching a variety of survey courses in the History and Humanities departments.