(Travel Fellow, 2019-20)
A Vital Matter: Alchemy, Cornucopianism, and Agricultural Improvement in England and the English Atlantic
Justin Niermeier-Dohoney is a postdoctoral fellow in the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago, where he recently received his PhD in the History of Science (2018). Broadly speaking, he specializes in the history of early modern science, natural and environmental history, the relationship between alchemy and the life sciences, and astrology, particularly in relation to early modern notions of climate and climate change. In his research, he is most interested in questions about the ethical and practical concerns that alchemists and agricultural reformers faced in their attempts to manipulate natural materials, the intersections of imperial expansion, capitalism, and trade in chemical and medical materials, and the historical origins of ecology, sustainability, and environmental management. His dissertation, “A Vital Matter: Alchemy, Cornucopianism, and Agricultural Improvement in Seventeenth-Century England,” explored how agricultural reformers adopted vitalist matter theories and the operational techniques of alchemy in an attempt to transform husbandry into a more economically productive enterprise. At the Linda Hall Library, he will be conducting research to expand this project, particularly to integrate it more thoroughly into debates about the English agricultural revolution and to provide a deeper transatlantic dimension to the project, considering that agricultural reformers appropriating alchemical techniques pervaded locations like New England iron-works, precious-metal mines in Central and South America, and acclimatization projects in various plantation settings from Virginia to the Caribbean.
Prior to the University of Chicago, Justin received degrees from Indiana University and Clemson University and worked as a research editor, educational non-profit project manager, and Google Books project assistant. Justin lives in Chicago with his wife Carly and sons Wyatt and Emerson.