Jennifer Tucker is co-teaching a course this semester on “Interpreting Life on Mars: Scientific Data and Popular Knowledge.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)
In this issue we ask “5 Questions” of Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor feminist, gender and sexuality studies.
Q: Professor Tucker, you started off with an undergrad degree in biology but you’re on the History Department’s faculty here and specialize in, among other areas, Victorian London and British cultural history. How did your interest evolve in these directions?
A: I entered college with a strong interest in history, but I also loved science courses. At Stanford I combined a major in the neurosciences of visual perception and memory with coursework in history of science and history of art. After receiving a Marshall Scholarship to study at Cambridge University, I completed graduate work in the history of science, focusing on, among other things, issues of visual representation in scientific and popular culture. The time I spent in the UK made up my mind to continue the study of history; talking with other historians of science sparked my desire to understand the power of visual communication in scientific and technological cultures and to engage the sciences as historically evolving practices – two interests that still invigorate my teaching and research. Most of my scholarship and teaching concentrates on British history during the 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when people around the world were experimenting with new visual technologies, such as photography and cinema. In addition to teaching general courses in British history and history of science, I also direct seminars and thesis research at Wesleyan on various topics in the history of science and visual communication. Some of the courses I teach include “Evolution, Pictures and Publics,” “Scientific Visualization in Western Culture from Leonardo’s Drawings to MRIs,” “10 Photographs That Shook the World,” and “Fact and Artifact: Visual Persuasion, Expert Evidence, and the Law.”
Q: You also have an appointment in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies. Is there an overlap with your Science in Society work or is this a separate research and teaching area?
A: Yes, there is an overlap. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called “Gender and Technology.” The class analyzes the role of gender and other social factors
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