William Newman

William Newman

Chair, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Distinguished Professor, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Ruth N. Halls Professor, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Director of Undergraduate Studies


  • Ph.D., History of Science, Harvard University, 1986

About William Newman

William R. Newman received his Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University in 1986. He has been awarded fellowships, grants, and prizes from a wide variety of foundations, such as the American Council of Learned Societies, National Humanities Center, Searle Professorship at the California Institute of Technology, Chemical Heritage Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, the Warburg Institute, and the National Science Foundation. Professor Newman holds the rank of Distinguished Professor and Ruth N. Halls Professor in History and Philosophy of Science.

His main present research interests focus on early modern “chymistry” and late medieval “alchemy,” especially as exemplified by Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Daniel Sennert, and the first famous American scientist, George Starkey. Much of his research has centered on the history of matter-theory, especially corpuscularism and atomism, and on the history of early chemical technology. He has taught courses on these subjects in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, as well as courses on early science and its relationship to natural philosophy more broadly.

Newman is general editor of the digital Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project and was the first director of the Catapult Center for Digital Humanities and Computational Analysis of texts at Indiana University.

Highlighted publications

Chemical Knowledge in the Early Modern World, co-edited with Seymour Mauskopf and Matthew Eddy), Osiris 29(2014).

Evidence and Interpretation: Studies on Early Science and Medicine in Honor of John E. Murdoch, a volume of articles edited by Newman and Edith Dudley Sylla (Leiden: Brill, 2009). This volume also appeared as a special issue in Early Science and Medicine 14(2009).

Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, with Lawrence M. Principe, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. This book won the 2005 History of Science Society Pfizer Award, recognized as “an outstanding book dealing with the history of science.”

Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, An American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, originally published by Harvard University Press.

The Summa Perfectionis of Pseudo-Geber: A Critical Edition, Translation, and Study, Leiden: Brill, 1991.