Deborah Harkness

Professor (Teaching) of History
Email Office SOS 161 Office Phone (213) 821-2604

Research & Practice Areas

History of Science, History of Medicine, History of Technology, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern Britain, the Renaissance, Women’s History, Tudor England


  • Ph.D. , University of California, Davis, 1/1994
  • M.A. , Northwestern University, 1/1990
  • B.A. magna, Mount Holyoke College, 1/1986
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor, University of Southern California, 2007 –
    • Associate Professor, University of Southern California, 01/01/2004 – 06/30/2007
    • Associate Professor, University of California, Davis, 01/01/1999 – 01/01/2004
    • Assistant Professor, University of California, Davis, 01/01/1997 – 01/01/1999
    • Assistant Professor, Colgate University, 01/01/1994 – 01/01/1997
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Deborah Harkness is a historian of science and medicine from antiquity
    to the present. A specialist in the period from 1400-1700, she is fascinated by how the study of the natural world traveled from the universities of the Middle Ages, through the libraries and royal courts of the Renaissance, into the cities and homes of early modern Europe, and then finally arrived in the learned academies of the Enlightenment. Rather than focusing on the end-points of this journey (the medieval university and the enlightened scientific academy), she studies the many spaces that students of nature passed through along the way in search of an ideal place to do scientific work.

    Her first book, John Dee’s Conversations with Angels , examined how a single Renaissance figure found answers to his questions about the natural world in his library and private study by turning to magic. Her second book, The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution , explores the thriving, complicated scientific culture that could be found on the streets of the city that was home to both Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. Professor Harkness’s new project, Living the Experimental Life in Early Modern Britain , seeks to understand the often uncomfortable intersection of scientific and domestic cultures in the 17th century and argues that in houses all over England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the Americas science proved to be an unwelcome guest. At the same time, however, experimental science profited enormously from its hiatus in the home where kitchen equipment could be adapted to new chemical purposes, servants and other household members could be employed as laboratory assistants and subjects, and women could be relied on to manage the complicated business of science in addition to their already overwhelming domestic responsibilities.

    Professor Harkness teaches courses on early modern cultural and
    intellectual history, including the survey in early modern European
    history and upper-division undergraduate courses on the history of Tudor
    and Stuart England, the history of women, and the history of magic and
    science. In the future she hopes to offer courses on Renaissance Magic
    and Modern Popular Culture, on the History of London, and on the
    Experimental Life in Early Modern Europe. At the graduate level, she
    trains students as broadly as possible in early modern European history,
    and pays special attention to their acquisition of language skills,
    technical skills such as paleography, and teaching experience.

    Research Keywords

    History of Science, History of Medicine, London, Scientific Revolution, John Dee, magic, alchemy

  • Conference Presentations

    • “How Big Is Our Tent? Reading, Writing, and the Borders of Historical Practice” , American Historical Association Annual MeetingRoundtable/Panel, American Historical Association, Invited, New Orleans, LA, Spring 2013
    • “The Experience of Early Modern London” , Early Modern CitiesKeynote Lecture, Invited, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, Fall 2012
    • “Resources for World-Makers: Finding Authenticity in the Library” , USC Writers’ ConferenceRoundtable/Panel, Invited, University of Southern California, Spring 2012

    Other Presentations

    • “Fiction and the Archives”, W. David Baird Lecture, , 2012-2013
    • “The Dutch Community in Elizabethan London”, Lecture, Belgium, 2011-2012
  • Book

    • Harkness, D. E. (2007). The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Book Chapter

    • Harkness, D. (2010). Francis Bacon and Experimental Writing. Teaching Early Modern Prose pp. 246-257.Modern Language Association.
    • Harkness, D. E. (2009). “Elizabethan Naturalists and the Work of John White,” European Visions, American Voices. pp. 44-50.British Museum Research Publication. Vol. 172,
    • Harkness, D. E. (2008). “From Notes to Narrative: Finding the Story” in From Concept to Completion: A Dissertation-Writing Guide for History Graduate Students. American History Association.
    • Harkness, D. E. (2008). “Accounting for Science: How a Merchant Kept His Books in Elizabethan London”. Palgrave.
    • Harkness, D. E. (2008). Francis Bacon and Experimental Writing. Modern Language Association.
    • Harkness, D. E. (2006). The Nexus of Angelology, Eschatology, and Natural Philosophy in John Dee’s Angel Conversations and Library. John Dee: Interdisciplinary Studies in English Renaissance Thought/Springer. Vol. n/a,
    • Harkness, D. E. (2006). “Nosce Teipsum: Curiosity, the Humoral Body, and the Culture of Therapeutics in Late Sixteenth-Century and Early Seventeenth Century England”. Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment/Ashgate. Vol. NA,
    • Harkness, D. E. (2001). “Tulips, Maps, and Spiders: the Cole-Ortelius-Lobel Family and the Practice of Natural History”.
    • Harkness, D. E. (2001). “‘Strange’ Ideas and ‘English’ Knowledge: Natural Science Exchange in Elizabethan London”.

    Journal Article

    • Harkness, D. E. (2008). A View from the Streets: Women and Medical Work in Elizabethan London. 1 pp. 52-85.Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Vol. 82 (1),
    • Harkness, D. E., Howard, J. E. (2008). The Great World of Early Modern London. 1 pp. 1-9.Huntington Library Quarterly. Vol. 71 (1),
    • Harkness, D. E. (1997). “Managing an Experimental Household: the Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of. pp. 247-262.Isis. Vol. 88,
    • Harkness, D. E. (1996). “Shows in the Showstone: A Theater of Alchemy and Apocalypse in the Angelic Conversations of John Dee (1527-1608),” Renaissance Quarterly 49 (1996): 707-. pp. 707-737.Renaissance Quarterly. Vol. 49,


    • (2008). The Places and Spaces of Early Modern London. 1 Huntington Library Quarterly. Vol. 71 (1),
    • Contributor, “Virgin Territory: The Making of The Virgin Queen,” The Bette Davis Collection (20th Century Fox, 2008),
    • Contributor, “To Capture a King,” The Tudors, Season 2 (DVD), Showtime.,
    • Contributor, “Love and Passion in Tudor Times,” The Tudors, Season 2(DVD), Showtime,
    • 175 Women of Influence, 2012-2013
    • SCIBA Award for Fiction, 2011
    • General Education Teaching Award, Fall 2009
    • Highly Commended, Longman’s/History Today Annual Book Prize, Spring 2009
    • Pfizer Price for Best Book in the History of Science, History of Science Society, Fall 2008
    • John Ben Snow Prize for Best Book in British Studies, North American Conference on British Studies, Fall 2008
    • Prize for Best Book, Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies, Spring 2008
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, 2006-2007
    • John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 2004-2005
    • National Humanities Center, John E. Sawyer Fellow, 2004-2005
    • National Science Floundation Senior Scholar’s Award, 2001-2002
    • Derek Price Award for Best Article, History of Science Society, 1998
    • ACLS Fellowship, 1997-1998
    • NEH Fellowship, Huntington Library, 1997-1998
    • Nelson Prize for Best Article, Renaissance Society of America, 1997
    • Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education, 1989-1993
    • Fulbright Fellowship to the United Kingdom, 1991-1992
  • Office Hours

      On Leave : By Appointment Only
  • Administrative Appointments

    • Director of Graduate Studies, Depatment of History, 2009-2010

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations

    • Consultant/Presenter, The History Channel,
  • Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Editorial Board Member, Journal of British Studies”, 07/01/2009 – 06/30/2014

    Professional Offices

    • Disciplinary Representative to the Council for the History of Science, Renaissance Society of America”, 2007-2011