Katharine Park

Katharine Park's book Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone Books, 1998), coauthored with Lorraine Daston, won the Pfizer Prize for the best book in the history of science. She is Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University.

  • Secrets Of Women

    Secrets Of Women

    Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection

    Katharine Park

    Women's bodies and the study of anatomy in Italy between the late thirteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries.

    Toward the end of the Middle Ages, medical writers and philosophers began to devote increasing attention to what they called "women's secrets," by which they meant female sexuality and generation. At the same time, Italian physicians and surgeons began to open human bodies in order to study their functions and the illnesses that afflicted them, culminating in the great illustrated anatomical treatise of Andreas Vesalius in 1543. Katharine Park traces these two closely related developments through a series of case studies of women whose bodies were dissected after their deaths: an abbess, a lactating virgin, several patrician wives and mothers, and an executed criminal. Drawing on a variety of texts and images, she explores the history of women's bodies in Italy between the late thirteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries in the context of family identity, religious observance, and women's health care. Secrets Of Women explodes the myth that medieval religious prohibitions hindered the practice of human dissection in medieval and Renaissance Italy, arguing that female bodies, real and imagined, played a central role in the history of anatomy during that time. The opened corpses of holy women revealed sacred objects, while the opened corpses of wives and mothers yielded crucial information about where babies came from and about the forces that shaped their vulnerable flesh. In the process, what male writers knew as the "secrets of women" came to symbolize the most difficult challenges posed by human bodies—challenges that dissection promised to overcome. Park's study of women's bodies and men's attempts to know them—and through these efforts to know their own—demonstrates the centrality of gender to the development of early modern anatomy.

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
    • Paperback $24.95 £20.00
  • Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750

    Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750

    Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park

    A rich exploration of how European naturalists used wonder and wonders (oddities and marvels) to envision and explain the natural world.

    Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize"This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility of naturalists. Pursued in tandem, these interwoven histories show how the two sides of knowledge, objective order and subjective sensibility, were obverse and reverse of the same coin rather than opposed to one another."—From the Introduction

    Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

    • Hardcover $42.95 £35.00
    • Paperback $29.95 £25.00