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College of Humanities & Sciences

Department of History

John C Powers, PhD

John Powers Headshot [View Image]

Chair, History Department and Associate Professor, STS and Europe
(804) 828-1736

John Powers is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University. His research focuses on the history of chemistry and alchemy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, natural philosophy and medicine in early modern universities, and the development of empirical, experimental, and pedagogical methods in science. His book Inventing Chemistry: Herman Boerhaave and the Reform of the Chemical Arts was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012. His current research focuses on the development of chemical thermometry and the impact of the thermometer on the chemical arts (brewing, ceramics, pharmacy), experimentation, and theories of heat. He has been the recipient of a National Science Foundation Scholar’s Award, and his other notable publications include: “‘Ars sine arte:’ Nicholas Lemery and the End of Alchemy in Eighteenth-Century France,” Ambix, 45 (1998): 163-89 and “Measuring Fire: Herman Boerhaave and the Introduction of Thermometry into Chemistry,” Osiris, 29 (2014): 158-77. He regularly teaches classes on revolutions in science, the history of technology, the history of epidemics, and senior seminars on “Evolution and Society" and “Science and Society in the Enlightenment.” 

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