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Brian W. Ogilvie

Professor of History

Portrait of Brian Ogilvie wearing a hat

(413) 545-1599

Personal Website

Herter Hall 618

Professor Brian Ogilvie studied at the University of Chicago, where he received his B.A. (1990), M.A. (1992), and Ph.D. (1997), as well as at Cambridge University, where he was a member of Trinity College. 

 He is currently working on two book projects: Nature's Bible: Insects in European Art, Science, and Religion from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, and a cultural history of butterflies. He was involved in a Leverhulme Trust International Research Network on the scientific career of Francis Willughby, FRS (1635-1672). He has published several articles and chapters on early modern science and historiography, and, with Bridget Marshall, on a case of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Hadley, Massachusetts, the town where he lives. His broader scholarly interests include the history of scholarship, witchcraft belief and persecution, and the history of religion. 

He has served as the History Department's Graduate Program Director and as Director of the UMass Oxford Summer Seminar, and as co-director of the Digital Humanities Initiative in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Professor Ogilvie was Chair of the History Department from September 2016 through August 2023.

Research Areas

Renaissance and early modern Europe
History of science
History of religion



Brian W. Ogilvie, The science of describing: Natural history in Renaissance Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2006; paperback, 2008). A Simplified Chinese translation was published in 2021 by Peking University Press.

Selected articles and chapters

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Nature,” in A cultural history of ideas in the age of Enlightenment, edited by Jack Censer, 105-120 (London: Bloomsbury, 2022).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Maxima in minimis animalibus: Insects in natural theology and physico-theology,” in Physico-theology: Religion and science in Europe, 1650-1750, edited by Ann Blair and Kaspar von Greyerz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020).

Brian W. Ogilvie, "The Hunt," in Surprise: 107 Variations on the Unexpected, edited by Mechthild Fend, Anke te Heesen, Christine von Oertzen, and Ferdinand Vidal, 302-4 (Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2019).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Visions of ancient natural history,” in Worlds of natural history, edited by Helen Anne Curry, Nicholas Jardine, James Andrew Secord, and Emma C. Spary, 17-32 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Stoics, Neoplatonists, atheists, politicians: Sources and uses of early modern Jesuit natural theology,” in For the sake of learning: Essays in honor of Anthony Grafton, edited by Ann Blair and Anja-Silvia Goeing, 2: 761-79 (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Willughby on insects,” in Virtuoso by nature: The scientific worlds of Francis Willughby FRS (1635-1672), edited by Tim Birkhead, 335-59 (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Scientific archives in the age of digitization,” Isis 107, no. 1 (2016): 77-85.

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Correspondence networks,” in A Companion to the history of science, ed. Bernard V. Lightman, 358-71 (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Maria Sibylla Merian et la mouche porte-lanterne du Surinam. Naissance et disparition d’un fait scientifique,” in Les savoirs-mondes: Mobilités et circulation des savoirs depuis le Moyen Âge, ed. Pilar González-Bernaldo et Liliane Hilaire-Peréz, 147-57 (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015).

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Science and medicine,” in The Oxford handbook of Neo-Latin, ed. Sarah Knight and Stefan Tilg, 263-277 (Oxford University Press, 2015). 

Brian W. Ogilvie, “Order of insects: Insect species and metamorphosis between Renaissance and Enlightenment,” in The life sciences in early modern philosophy, ed. Ohad Nachtomy and Justin E. H. Smith, 222-245 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 

Brian W. Ogilvie, “The pleasure of describing: Art and science in August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof’sMonthly Insect Entertainment,” in Animals on display: The creaturely in museums, zoos, and natural history, ed. Liv Emma Thorsen, Karen A. Rader, and Adam Dodd, 77-100 (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2013). 

Brian W. Ogilvie, “How to write a letter: Humanist correspondence manuals and the late Renaissance community of naturalists,” Jahrbuch für europäische Wissenschaftskultur/Yearbook for European Culture of Science 6 (2011 [published 2012]): 13-38. 

Bridget M. Marshall and Brian Ogilvie, “‘There shall be a wonder in Hadley! Mary Webster's 'hideous witchcraft,’” in Cultivating a past: Essays on the history of Hadley, Massachusetts, edited by Marla Miller, 135-153 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009). 

Brian W. Ogilvie, “The many books of nature: Renaissance naturalists and information overload,”Journal of the History of Ideas 64 (2003): 29-40. 

Awards and Accolades

Residential Fellowship, Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris, January-June 2012 

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2004-05 

Residential Fellowship, Columbia University Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall, Paris, 2004-05 

Research Stipend, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, June 2003 

American Philosophical Society General Research Grant, 1999 

Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 1991 (honorary; declined stipend) 

National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1991 

National Endowment for the Humanities Younger Scholar, 1989 

Courses Recently Taught

Undergraduate Courses:
Western Science and Technology I
Renaissance and Reformation Europe
Witchcraft, Magic, and Science
History of Technology

Graduate Courses:
Scientific Revolution
Topics in Early Modern Europe
Witchcraft, Magic, and Science