Jessica Ratcliff

Assistant Professor

Department and Program Affiliations:
Science & Technology Studies

Academic focus:
I work on the history of science and technology, specializing in Britain and the British Empire. My work so far has explored the historical relationship between forms of science and forms of state, in contexts such as technological invention and courtier culture in seventeenth-century England, Victorian astronomy at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, state patronage of terrestrial magnetism in the princely state of Travancore in the late nineteenth century, and natural history at the British East India Company. My overall aim is to clarify the historical relationship between the growth of modern forms of science and modern forms of state.

Current research project: 
My current project looks at the British East India Company as an institution of science. I am tracing the history of the Company’s efforts to collect, organize, and utilize information about Asia, focusing on the period between 1780 and 1880; I show how, inside the Company’s libraries and museums, disciplinary boundaries and systems of knowledge were repeatedly redrawn as a consequence of broader political and economic changes.

Previous positions:
Assistant Professor, Humanities (history), Yale-NUS College, Singapore, 2012-16
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, 2009-12

Academic background:
D. Phil, History, University of Oxford, 2006
M.Sc., History of science, University of Oxford, 2001

Last book read:
“Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett

In your own time/when not working:
Hanging out with family and friends, walking the hills, fostering dogs for Cayuga Dog Rescue, mediocre crafting and gardening, and entrepreneurial daydreaming (want to invest in a startup sturgeon farm on Cayuga Lake?)

Courses you’re most looking forward to teaching:
Science, Technology and Globalization, which will tackle the problem of how to engage STS and the history of science with global history and globalization studies; The Second Scientific Revolution and the Second British Empire, on the political and economic history of science; and The Material Culture of Science: Archives, and Museums and Data Collections

What most excites you about Cornell:
Aside from getting to know the Cornell community, I love the beautiful campus and its hilltop location and am looking forward to exploring the area.

Jessica Ratcliff