Catherine Abou-Nemeh

Dr Catherine Abou-Nemeh profile picture

Lecturer School of History, Philosophy, Political Science & International Relations


Teaching in 2020

Office hours

By appointment.


  • BSc (Hons) Northwestern University
  • MA Princeton University
  • PhD Princeton University


Prior to joining Victoria University of Wellington in 2013, I taught in the Department of History at Princeton University. I have also held visiting research fellowships at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris (2008–2009); the Scaliger Institute, Leiden University (2009); and the Edward Worth Library in Dublin (2011). In 2012, I was Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. In 2016 I was a Visiting Scholar in the History Department at Harvard University.

Research interests

I am a historian of early modern science, technology, and medicine, specialising in natural philosophy and optics. In my teaching and research, I explore the relationship between empirical and learned traditions in an age that laid the foundations of modern science in Europe. I focus especially on interconnections between artisanal practice, textual authority, material culture—and the artisan-philosophers who combined these in the study of nature. My research interests also extend to early modern philosophy, history of anatomy, and history of the senses.

Current research

At present I am completing my book project, entitled Nicolas Hartsoeker: Craft and Natural Knowledge in the Scientific Revolution. It is the first full-length history of the enigmatic and controversial Dutch lens maker and natural philosopher Nicolas Hartsoeker (1656–1725). Hartsoeker was a participant of several different scientific cultures across Europe—the mathematical and optical arts of the Dutch Republic, the natural philosophical program of the Paris Academy of Sciences, the courtly science of the Palatinate in Düsseldorf, among others. My book charts the extraordinary evolution of a highly skilled craftsman into the role of philosopher, who remained active in both spheres and cross-pollinated their methods and modes of thought. It not only restores to the historical record a prominent though neglected figure. By its focus on a craftsman-philosopher, it also challenges a historiography that has generally privileged theoretical over empirical genius in the sciences. This research has been supported by several European and U.S. grants (see above) and by Victoria University of Wellington’s Research Establishment Grant.

Postgraduate Students

  • Christianna Kay, 'Power, Patronage, and Marriage in the Courts of Elizabeth I and James VI & I' (Ph.D., commenced in 2014).
  • Nancy Marquez, 'Shifting the Frontiers of Early Modern Science: Astronomers, Botanists, and Engineers in Viceregal New Spain during the Habsburg Era, 1535–1700' (Ph.D., commenced in 2013, degree conferred in 2017).
  • Beth Rust, ‘A Woman of Letters: Christine de Pizan and The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405’ (B.A. Honours thesis, 2017).
  • Kate Mountcastle, ‘The Overlooked ‘Father of Psychology’? Thomas Willis’ De Anima Brutorum and Diseases of the Soul’ (B.A. Honours thesis, 2016, co-supervised with Steve Behrendt).
  • Jessica Simkiss, ‘Intellectual Freedom through Faith and Revelation: Blaise Pascal in Early Modern Science’ (B.A. Honours thesis, 2015). Winner of the 2015 Bowen Prize for her research essay on an aspect of European science.
  • Rhys G. Jennings, ‘Constructing Gender in the World of Gregory of Tours’ (B.A. Honours thesis, 2015).


  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine, Review of For the Sake of Learning: Essays in Honor of Anthony Grafton, 2 vols., edited by Ann Blair and Anja-Silvia Goeing, British Journal for the History of Science (forthcoming).
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine, Review of Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, edited by Lesley B. Cormack, Steven A. Walton, John A. Schuster, Isis (forthcoming in June 2018).
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine,‘Controversies over Comets: Isaac Newton, Nicolas Hartsoeker, and Early Modern World-Making,’ in Reading Newton in Early Modern Europe, edited by Elizabethanne Boran and Mordechai Feingold (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 147-191.
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine, Review of The Natural and the Human: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 1739–1841 by Stephen Gaukroger, Isis, 108 (2017): 198-199.
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine, ‘Réaumur’s Crayfish Experiment in Hartsoeker’s Système: Regeneration and the Limits of Mechanism,’ in The Life Sciences in Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Ohad Nachtomy and Justin E. H. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 157-180.
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine,‘The Natural Philosopher and the Microscope: Nicolas Hartsoeker Unravels Nature’s ‘Admirable Œconomy’,’ History of Science 51 (2013): 1-32.
  • Abou-Nemeh, Catherine,‘Leibniz and Hartsoeker’s Letters: What animates matter in motion?’ in Leibniz y las Ciencias Empíricas. Leibniz and the Empirical Sciences, edited by Juan Antonio Nicolás Marín and Sergio Toledo (Editorial Comares, S.L., 2011), 221-235.


In 2016, I served as co-convenor of the History Programme Seminar series. In 2017–2018, I am the History Postgraduate Coordinator.


British Journal for the History of Science.

Isis, Journal for the History of Science.

Logo for Studies in History and Philosophy of Science


Teaching in 2020