Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: History of Science and Technology
Competition: US & Canada
Tara Nummedal grew up in Seal Beach, California. She received a B.A. in history from Pomona College in 1992, an M.A. in history from University of California, Davis in 1996, and a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University in 2001. After spending 2001-02 as the Edelstein International Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, she joined the Department of History at Brown University, where she teaches courses in early modern Europe and the history of science.
Ms. Nummedal's work explores the social and cultural meaning of nature in early modern central Europe. Her first book, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2007), took the problem of fraud as a point of entry into the world of alchemical practice in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire. Her Guggenheim project, The Lion's Blood: Alchemy, Apocalypse, and Gender in Reformation Europe, uses the dramatic tale of Anna Zieglerin's rise and fall at a ducal court in the 1570s as a point of entry into the intersection of science, gender, and religious culture in Reformation Germany. One of the few women alchemists about whom we have extant sources, Zieglerin practiced alchemy in her own laboratory, recorded her recipes involving a golden oil called the lion's blood, and attracted the support of a German duke for her alchemical work. At the same time, she articulated an eschatological program in which she, as a "new Virgin Mary," would use the lion's blood to repopulate the world in preparation for the Last Days. In positioning her body and her alchemy at the center of a spectacular cosmic drama, Zieglerin offers an opportunity to explore the porous boundary between science and religion in the era of the Reformation.