Whitmer, Kelly

Useful Science, Pedagogy and the Power of Youth in Early Modern Central Europe

My book project (in progress) studies how changing expectations about the potential and playfulness of young people informed new efforts to create a culture of innovation in early modern central Europe. It considers how instructional manuals, project sketches, object-based pedagogies, collecting strategies and accounts of young prodigies were used by various professional groups, including political economists, to direct new technologies toward the future and the solving of pressing problems. There has been a surge of interest in project-making recently, especially among historians of science and technology interested in the idea of the knowledge economy. My research contributes to these ongoing conversations by recovering the work of educational reformers, who understood themselves to be involved in a coordinated effort to transform society by introducing realia and object lessons into higher schools.


Related/key publications

  • Edited with Larry Stewart, “Expectations and utility in eighteenth century knowledge economies,” introduction to a Special Issue of Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science 72:2 (2018), pp. 1-7
  • “Reimagining the ‘nature of children’: Realia, reform and the turn to pedagogical realism in central Europe, c. 1600 – 1700,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 12 (2019), pp. 113 – 135
  • “Projects and pedagogical expectations: Inside P.J. Marperger’s ‘Golden Clover Leaf’ (Trifolium), 1700-1730,” Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science Special Issue 72 (2018), pp. 139 – 157
  • “Imagining Uses for Things: Teaching ‘Useful Knowledge’ in the Early Eighteenth Century,” History of Science 55 (2017), pp. 37-60
  • The Halle Orphanage as Scientific Community: Observation, Eclecticism and Pietism in the Early Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015