Department of History and the College
Ada Palmer’s research interests include Renaissance and long-term European intellectual history, especially the recovery of classical philosophy, religion, and science in the Renaissance and how it mixed with dominant medieval ideas to produce the intellectual atmosphere that led to the Enlightenment and the modern world. Her work also addresses the history of the book; the transition to printing; the history of science, especially the development of the scientific method; and the history of religion, heterodoxy, heresy, and atheism.
Her book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (Harvard University Press, 2014), treats the recovery of classical atomic theory in the Renaissance and shows how humanist reading, printing, and educational practices helped shelter and disseminate radical scientific theories essential to the development of modern science. Her article on the same subject, published in the Journal of the History of Ideas in 2012, won the 2013 I Tatti Prize for Best Essay by a Junior Scholar.
Palmer received her PhD from Harvard University, having earned earlier degrees from Bryn Mawr College and Bard College at Simon’s Rock. In addition to her scholarly research, she works as a historical consultant for fiction publishers and has several science fiction novels forthcoming.
Palmer joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2014.