Talks & Interviews




Alexander von Humboldt’s “Tableau Physique” (1805) or, in German, “Naturgemälde der Anden” (1807)

Interview by Michael Robinson for the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs–“Episode 32: Rethinking Humboldt.” Michael and I had a wonderful discussion about my recent article in the history of science journal Isis on the miner-turned-savant Alexander von Humboldt. The interview offers reflections on decades of scholarship on Humboldt, and explores the ways in which his science was shaped as much by imperialism as by cameralism (an administrative science in early modern Europe). We also discussed Humboldt’s “Tableau Physique” (left), a visual representation of the geographical distribution of plant life across the South American continent. I explain how this image illustrates Humboldt’s idealized conception of nature, what Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison have called a “truth-to-nature” epistemic virtue. In my article, I show how this visual technology, and many of Humboldt’s practices and theories, were shaped by the “working world” (Jon Agar’s useful term) of mining.

Interview by Isis on my article “Mining as the Working World of Alexander von Humboldt’s Plant Geography and Vertical Cartograph,” Isis 109, no. 1 (2018): 28-55.


I had the opportunity to join my classmates and instructor, Laura Stark, in a New Books Network Interview with Nick Hopwood. We discussed his recently-published book Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015).


Invited Talks


2 Jul. 2019: Werkstattgespräch: „Bergbau als ‚Hülfsmittel der Natur‘. Georg Forsters Reise zwischen aufgeklärtem Utilitarismus und romantischer Ökologie, 1784“, 2.7.2019 um 18:15 Uhr in der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Haus Potsdamer Straße, Konferenzraum 3. Read more at:

11 March: Invited talk at the Cabinet of Natural History, University of Cambridge: “Meeting Nature Halfway: Georg Forster, Mining, and the Aesthetics of Artifice”


14 June: Invited talk at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München: “The Mine, the Garden, and the Mill: Views of Nature in Germany, 1760-1860”

29 May: Invited talk at Universität Konstanz: “Time and the Underground: The Politics of Primordiality and the Patriation of the Subsoil in Germany, 1775-1825”


Conference Papers


4-6 Apr. 2019: Paper at the Conference “Social Technologies and Global Knowledge Economies, 1750-1850,” hosted by the Lichtenberg-Kolleg in Göttingen: “Plants as social technologies of scale: The industrial botany behind Alexander von Humboldt’s plant geography”


28 Oct.: Paper at the German Studies Association Meeting (Panel: “Administering Time and Space in the 19th Century,” 2:00-4:00), Pittsburgh, PA.

“Time and the Underground: How Mountains Became Repositories of German Primordiality, 1775-1825.” Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 2018 (New Orleans).

Presenting at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg in Göttingen


“Mining, Mobility, and the Routes/Roots of Vertical Science in the Time of Humboldt.” History of Science Society Conference, November 2017 (Toronto).

“The Discovery of the Underground: Mining and the Search for a Primordial Fatherland in Enlightenment Germany.” Göttingen Spirit Summer School at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg – The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study, July 2017 (Göttingen, Germany).


“Underground Enlightenment: How German Mining Shaped ‘Humboldtian Science’.” History of Science Society Conference, November 2016 (Atlanta).

“Humboldt und die Entwicklung einer vertikalen Denkart: unterirdisches Reisen,      untermeerische Sondierung und Kartographie, ca. 1760-1860.” Invited talk at the         Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, August Humboldt   Colloquium (Berlin, Germany).

“Alexander von Humboldt as Technical Theorist: How Mining Shaped His Ideas on Plant Migration and Cartography.”Invited talk at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, June Humboldt Colloquium (Berlin, Germany).