Academic Writing


Peer-Reviewed Academic Publications

Whitney Barlow Robles, “Flatness,” in The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, ed. Ethan W. Lasser (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums, 2017).

This book chapter traces the creation, circulation, and use of flattened fish specimens affixed to paper like plant herbarium sheets in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I consider how this material practice literalized the metaphor of the “book” or “page” of nature, converting these specimens into objects of natural theology and a form of scientific paperwork. While naturalists would use this technique to standardize nature and render it visible, the lifeways and material form of fishes influenced and often resisted such representation. This essay also compares the difficulties of forcing fish into two dimensions with problems facing eighteenth-century portraiture and microscopy.

Whitney Barlow Robles, “Atlantic Disaster: Boston Responds to the Cape Ann Earthquake of 1755,” The New England Quarterly 90, no. 1 (March 2017): 7–35.

This article examines religious, scientific, and newspaper responses to the Cape Ann earthquake of 1755, a major temblor that affected Boston and other regions throughout the Atlantic world. The collective experience of the earthquake remained a fractured one, not only due to its discontinuous effects across the region and the diverse ways of interpreting it, but also because an event of this magnitude and scope continuously put forth new information, prompting those in the eighteenth century to partake in their own revisionist histories. As ministers and natural philosophers rushed to amend and expand their statements on the earthquake with appendices to their printed works, news of a far more devastating earthquake that struck Lisbon, Portugal on November 1, 1755, reached the American colonies. Reports from Lisbon drove Americans to revise their picture of the New England event once more and broaden their horizon of environmental upheaval to one that extended into and across the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean also provides a link to bridge disparate historiographic trends, reconciling the seeming tension between the movement toward larger Atlantic or global histories and calls for local, fine-grained histories.

Daan Witters, Bing Sun, Stefano Begolo, Jesus Rodriguez-Manzano, Whitney Robles, and Rustem F. Ismagilov, “Digital Biology and Chemistry,” Lab on a Chip 14 (2014): 3225–3232.

This article examines how microfluidics can be used in chemistry and biology to study natural switching systems and single molecules, cells, and organisms.

Web-Based Academic Publications

Whitney Barlow Robles, “Natural History in Two Dimensions,” Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life 18, no. 1 (Winter 2018).

This essay recounts my reenactment of an eighteenth-century method of preserving fish on paper in flattened form, revealing how enslaved laborers, kitchen knowledge, and craft techniques helped build major eighteenth-century zoological collections.

Whitney Barlow Robles, “A Naturalist in Historian’s Clothing,” The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History (November 27, 2017).

In this post, I describe the influence of nature writing on my own work.

Whitney with eelExamining a flattened half-skin of a European eel (Anguilla anguilla) from the Gronovius collection at the Natural History Museum (London).