Natural Things | Ad Fontes Naturae is a global natural history project in the digital humanities based out of Stanford’s Program in History & Philosophy of Science. Our current focus is the publication of an illustrated edited volume featuring chapters and designs from our contributors. Natural Things: In and Beyond Ecologies of Knowledge is expected in 2023 with Routledge Books.

Its twelve essays and original visualizations explore the relationships among natural philosophy, science, medicine, and European colonialism to chart the expansion of natural science from 1500 to the early 1900s. Each essay focuses on a particular natural thing, which we define as an assemblage transcending the built environment. Natural things have histories beyond humanity, but human actors have shaped, collected, sorted, and bedecked them with multifarious, dexterous meanings. Every chapter finds its own balance between theoretical and empirical intervention with a focus on novel historical sources from archives, herbaria, and libraries, presenting original research and writing that has not been published in other venues. Episodes reveal connected histories that link Europe to other regions of the globe, as natural things traveled from Borneo, China, Pacific islands, the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman Empire, and the Spanish Empire by way of naturalists, natural philosophers, collectors, merchants, apothecaries, physicians, agriculturalists, and professional scientists.

Natural Things Conference
Spring 2019

In Spring 2019, Hamilton College hosted the Inaugural Natural Things  Conference. Presenters charted the expansion of natural science in the age  of global empires.


Visit Conference Website

In the News

Read more about the Natural Things Conference here