Areas of Interest
Jennifer Tucker is a historian of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British society with a specialization in the history of science and technology, law, and visual culture. Her research interests include 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. She currently 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. She received her BA in Human Biology (Neuropsychology of Vision, Perception, and Memory) from Stanford University, MPhil in 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.
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. She has published numerous articles about British and transatlantic science, photography and law, Victorian art and science, and nineteenth-century environmental history. Recent publications or works that are forthcoming include “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 also serves as co-editor of a forthcoming issue of Radical History Review 127: “Political Histories of Technoscience,” co-edited with Simon Schaffer and David Serlin (Winter 2017).
As a US-UK Fulbright Scholar in the History of Art at the University of York in 2014 she conducted research for her second book-length project titled “Identity after Photography: The Great Tichborne Trial in the Victorian Visual Imagination.” This manuscript, now completed, excavates hundreds of photographs, engravings, and other visual materials 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.
She 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, focusing especially on 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. Additionally, she has presented recent talks, including in China, Italy, Australia, and at Birkbeck College, London, about the British documentary filmmaker, Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium project (1938-1950) and its place in the history of visual imagination. She is currently completing the archival research for “Caught on Camera” at the University of York in the UK with the support of a 2016 NEH Public Scholar Award. She began work on both of these projects as a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, Canberra in spring 2015.
She was guest editor of a theme issue of History and Theory on “Photography and Historical Interpretation” (Dec. 2009).
She serves in a number of other editorial roles including editor of the “Image, Technology, History” feature of History and Technology journal, co-editor of a new book series on photography and history published by Bloomsbury Academic Press, and member of the Radical History Review editorial collective.
Her research has been supported by, among others, 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.
She was the organizer and co-chair of a special symposium being held at The Aspen Institute on Sept. 15, 2016, “Firearms and the Common Law Tradition,” which brought together leading historians, legal scholars, and curators of historic firearms collections from the US and UK to discuss current research on guns and history. Other collaborative events she has helped organize 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,” and the upcoming “Firearms and the Common Law Tradition” symposium at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. 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 of debate.
In addition to teaching on modern British history, she also teaches, among others, “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.”
She is interested in public history especially as it relates to technology, science, culture and law, and has presented research in a variety of public and museum formats, on topics ranging from photography and law to Mars research and facial recognition technology, including 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.