Areas of Interest

Jennifer Tucker is Associate Professor of History at Wesleyan University where she is also a member of the faculty of the Science in Society Program and the College of the Environment, and currently serves as Interim Chair of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. She received her BA in Human Biology (Neuropsychology of Vision, Perception, and Memory) from Stanford University, MPhil in the Dept. of the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge (Marshall Scholarship, Gonville and Caius College), and Ph.D. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from Johns Hopkins University. A historian of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British society, she specializes in the history of technology, science, art, visual and material culture. Among her research interests are history and technologies of evidence, photography in scientific discovery and exploration, Victorian and Edwardian science and technology, Australian and British World studies, mugshots and surveillance, Victorian environmental history and law, and photography and law, including the politics of cameras in the courtroom and the technological transformation of courtroom evidence and display.

Her first book, Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (Johns Hopkins University, 2006, released in paperback, 2013) explores the history of debates over photography and visual objectivity in Victorian science and popular culture from planetary astronomy and meteorology to bacteriology and spiritualism.
A Fulbright Scholarship in the History of Art at the University of York enabled her to complete the archival research for her second book-length project (now in manuscript and forthcoming), titled “Facing Facts: The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination.” This study uses hundreds of photographs, engravings, and other visual materials in archives in over a dozen countries that circulated around the time of the high-profile trial in order to show both the impact of new nineteenth-century media upon the conduct of legal proceedings and some of the factors that led to the trial’s emergence as a dominant subject of Victorian visual culture.

Tucker currently is working on two new book-length projects. One, titled “Science Against Industry: Photographic Technologies and the Visual Politics of Pollution Reform,” traces the historical roots of the use of visual evidence in environmental science and pollution reform, and explores the visual representation in chemical climatology and the presentation of visual exhibits in Victorian courtroom debates over air and river pollution. The other, titled “Caught on Camera,” is a book-length study about the legal and cultural history of photographic detection and evasion, and is funded by a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She began work on both of these projects as a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, Canberra in 2015 and as a Senior Scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, in 2016.

She has published around twenty-five articles and book chapters on topics including British and transatlantic science, photography and law, technologies of vision in Victorian art and science, and nineteenth-century environmental history. They include: “Photographic Migrations: The Tichborne Claimant, Popular Archives, and the “Evidence of Camera Pictures,” in Kelley Wilder and Gregg Mitman, eds. Documenting the World: Film, Photography and the Scientific Record (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016); “Close Ties: The Railway Station and Photographic Networks,” Photoworks (2014)“’Famished for News Pictures: Mason Jackson, The Illustrated London News, and the Pictorial Spirit,” in Jason E. Hill and Vanessa R. Schwartz, eds. Getting the Picture: The History & Visual Culture of the News (2015); “Science Institutions in Modern British Visual Culture: The British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1831-1931” (2016); “’To Obtain More General Attention for the Objects of Science: The Depiction of Popular Science in Victorian Illustrated News,” Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan (2016); “Visual and Material Culture” for Rohan McWilliam et al, eds. New Directions in Social and Cultural History (forthcoming); and “Scientific Photography after 1850” for Gil Pasternak, ed. Handbook of Photographic Studies (forthcoming). She is also currently researching the British documentary filmmaker, Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium project (1938-1950) and his contribution to visual and technological history and has presented this work at Birkbeck College, the Paul Mellon Centre in London and the Institute of Visual Studies in Lucca, among others.

She co-edited Radical History Review 127: “Political Histories of Technoscience,” with Simon Schaffer and David Serlin (Winter 2017) and was guest editor of the theme issue of History and Theory on “Photography and Historical Interpretation” (Dec. 2009). She also serves as editor of the “Image, Technology, History” feature of History and Technology journal, co-editor of a book series on photography and history published by Bloomsbury Academic Press, and member of the Radical History Review editorial collective (co-chair, 2017-21).

Tucker’s research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Clark Art Institute, National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution, Social Science Research Council, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Foundation. In 2009-2010, she was in residence as a Hixon-Riggs Visiting Professor of History and Science/Technology Studies at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.

Programmatic events include “Eye of History: The Camera as Witness”, “Science a Moving Image” (http://www.hmc.edu/academicsclinicresearch/interdisciplinarycenters/hixonforum1/forum.html),the 2014 AALAC Symposium, “Visual Studies in the Liberal Arts,” the 2016 “Firearms and the Common Law Tradition: History and Memory” symposium at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., and, in 2017, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concern at Wesleyan University, “Guns in American Society.” The Aspen workshop led to two projects: an edited collection of essays (forthcoming) on Firearms and the Common Law: History and Memory; and the first round-table discussion among curators of firearms collections in private and public museums in the US and UK, exploring issues of ethics, law, public history and contested narratives (forthcoming in Technology and Culture, the journal of the Society for History of Technology). In 2012-2013 she served as Interim Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, where she organized events on a range of contemporary topics and debates.

A recipient of a National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Award in 2016, Tucker is interested in public history, especially relating to historical knowledge of technology, science, culture, environmental history, and law. <a href=”http://http://seeingscience.umbc.edu/2017/01/jennifer-tucker-visual-ecologies/“>
She has presented research in a variety of public,museum, and online formats on topics ranging from photography and law to Mars research and facial recognition technology. These include: op-eds in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal (“The Mars Curiosity Rover and the Long Search for ET”),the Boston Globe (“Facial Recognition Goes Way Back,” and “What Our Most Famous Evolutionary Cartoon Gets Wrong“), and has appeared as a guest on WNPR, BBC Radio 3 BBC Radio 3, and BBC2 television science documentary series, “Dangerous Earth” (broadcast Nov. 24, 2016).

In addition to teaching on modern British history, she also teaches “Technology, Law and Culture,” “Contemporary Issues in Historiography,” “Gender and History,” “Seeing a Bigger Picture: Environmental History and Visual Studies,” “Law and Photography,” “History of Evidence” and “Science as Social Practice’.