Whitney Barlow Robles is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows and the Department of History at Dartmouth College. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2019 and specializes in the history of science, material culture, environmental studies, and early American history.
Her book project, Curious Species: How Enlightenment Animals Made Natural History, examines the formative role animals and specimens played in early modern science. The book reveals how nonhuman creatures such as corals, rattlesnakes, fish, and raccoons shaped the Enlightenment project that sought to study them, resulting in both the advancement and loss of natural knowledge.
Her publications include an article about rattlesnakes and scientific ignorance in the William and Mary Quarterly; a prize-winning essay in Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life on the challenges of reenacting eighteenth-century fish taxidermy; an article in The New England Quarterly about a 1755 earthquake that shook Boston; and an essay on flattened scientific specimens and modes of observation, published in the book The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820. She is also an affiliate researcher with the Stanford-based Natural Things | Ad Fontes Naturae research group, a global natural history project in the digital humanities, where she is tracing the interlinked histories of food and natural science using digital methods and historical food artifacts that have survived in scientific collections. Her research has been supported by the American Historical Association, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the British Library, the William L. Clements Library, the Boston Athenaeum, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Linda Hall Library, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the Center for American Political Studies, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and other institutions.
Dr. Robles received her A.M. in History from Harvard and her B.A. in American Studies (with a concentration in nature writing) from Yale University. In her days before academia, she worked as a science editor for a global health laboratory at Caltech and as a freelance science and nature writer. She also penned stories on firefly sex, flavor perception, and terraforming Mars while working as a writer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.