Dr Richard Oosterhoff

Senior Lecturer; Early Modern Europe


After a degree in biology at Redeemer University College, I was seduced by optional courses in history, and completed a PhD in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Notre Dame, IN (2013). For some years I was a member of the ERC project Genius before Romanticism: Genius in Early Modern Art and Science, based at CRASSH, University of Cambridge. At Cambridge I was also a JRF and then Fellow and Tutor at St Edmund's College. Among the fellowships I've been fortunate enough to hold, some are from the Warburg Institute (University of London), the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, the Huntington Library, and the Houghton Library (Harvard University). At Edinburgh, I have served as the Director of Undergraduate Teaching for History (Pre-Honours); I've also been an elected member of the Senatus Academicus (2020–22).

Responsibilities & affiliations

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Reviews Editor, Intellectual History Review

Vice President, Leonardo da Vinci Society

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Associate Editor, Reviews Editor, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2015–2018)

Undergraduate teaching


  • Global Connections
  • Introduction to Historiography 
  • Making of the Modern World
  • Early Modern History: A Connected World (course organiser)


  • The Invention of Race: Early Modern Intellectual History and the Atlantic World (honours option)
  • The Renaissance World of José de Acosta: Empire, Religion, and Science (honours option)
  • Better Worlds: Ancient to Early Modern Utopias (honours option, in collaboration with Benedikt Eckhardt, Classics)
  • HSM 1 (pathway: Early Modern Art and Science)
  • The Order of Nature: Politics of Knowledge from Medieval to Enlightenment Europe (special subject)

Postgraduate teaching

  • The Scientific Revolution in Global Perspective (MSc seminar)
  • Supervise MSc, MScR & PhD dissertations (I supervise a range of topics in early modern intellectual history and history of science—if interested, I encourage you to write me before applying to discuss options.)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I supervise a range of topics in early modern intellectual history and history of science—if interested, I encourage you to write me before applying to discuss options.

Current PhD students supervised


René Winkler, The Origins of Museums in Scotland: Robert Sibbald's "Auctarium Musaei Balfouriani" (lead supervisor)

Lewis Ashman, The reception of Isaac Newton in Enlightenment Scotland (co-supervisor)

Emily Kent, Mersenne’s Beautiful Questions: Music, Philosophy, and Cultures of Erudition in Seventeenth-Century France (lead supervisor)

Bo van Broekhoven (lead supervisor)

Naomi Choi (co-supervisor)



Jame Gemmell, Processes of Racialisation: Slavery and Colonialism in the Seventeenth-Century English Atlantic World (co-supervisor, completed)

Project activity

My first book, Making Mathematical Culture (2018), addressed the exact sciences in the context of the Renaissance university and early print culture. As a glance at my publications shows, I continue this strand of research on student notebooks and early modern cultures of knowledge in various forms.

A second strand of research considers art and science. With the CRASSH project Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Art and Science, co-organized several major conferences (found under “events”). We co-wrote a monograph on word histories of ingenuity, titled Logodaedalus (2018). I also edited a volume of essays, Ingenuity in the Making, on materials, technique, and craft culture (Pittsburgh, 2021). I'm intrigued by what I call the “untutored mind” in Early Modern Europe. Between 1400 and 1750, European intellectuals increasingly found inspiration in the ingenuity or “common sense” of artisans, laypeople, women, farmers, and non-Europeans. The eyes of simple faith see farthest, argued Protestant and Catholic reformers alike. For “moderns” from Montaigne and Francis Bacon to Rousseau, it is the naïve mind, undefiled by books, that sees most truly. Through popular theological works, educational treatises, recipe books, New World narratives, the growing genre of how-to books, and philosophical works, this study traces the early modern expansion of the conviction that unlearned knowledge is the most trustworthy.

Lately, I've been taken by early modern travel literature as well. With my colleague Anthony Ossa-Richardson (UCL), I've just published a new translation of the Cosmography and Geography of Africa (Penguin Classics, 2023) by the Moroccan diplomat al-Hasan al-Wazzan, better known as Johannes Leo Africanus. Our translation is based on the original manuscript, quite different from those printed in the sixteenth century. With my colleague Sundar Henny (Berne, I Tatti), I'm editing a special issue on 'Pilgrim Science', which looks at early modern pilgrims as a distinctive source of early modern knowledge. 

See more at https://edinburgh.academia.edu/RichardOosterhoff


Making Mathematical Culture: University and Print in the Circle of Lefèvre d’Étaples, Oxford-Warburg Studies (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe, co-authored with Alexander Marr, Raphaële Garrod, José Ramón Marcaida (Pittsburgh University Press, 2019)


Edited volumes

Ingenuity in the Making: Matter and Technique in Early Modern Europe, edited with José Ramón Marcaida and Alexander Marr (Pittsburgh University Press, 2021)

Pilgrim Knowledge: Travel and Empiricism in the Early Modern Holy Land, a special issue of Mediterranean Historical Review, co-edited with Sundar Henny (forthcoming)



Leo Africanus / Hasan al-Wazzan, Cosmography and Geography of Africa (Penguin Classics, 2023). Translated with Anthony Ossa-Richardson


Articles and chapters (selected)

‘Knowing like a Pilgrim’, Mediterranean Historical Review, co-authored with Sundar Henny (forthcoming)

 ‘Pierre Belon’s Singularity: Pilgrim Fact in Renaissance Natural History’, Mediterranean Historical Review (forthcoming)

‘Decline of the Calculators in Paris c. 1500: Humanism and Print’, in Quantifying Aristotle: The Impact, Spread, and Decline of the Calculatores Tradition, ed. Daniel A. Di Liscia, Edith Dudley Sylla, and Paul J. J. M. Bakker (Leiden: Brill, 2022), 328–51.

‘The Idiota’s Authority: Fifteenth-Century Hierarchies in Dialogue’, in Literature, Learning, and Social Hierarchy in Early Modern Europe, ed. Neil Kenny, Proceedings of the British Academy 246 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022), 163–80.

‘Reading and Numerology in the Early French Reform’, Reformation & Renaissance Review 24, no. 1 (2022): 44–72.

‘Printerly Ingenuity and Mathematical Books in the Early Estienne Workshop’, in Publishing Sacrobosco’s De Sphaera in Early Modern Europe: Modes of Material and Scientific Exchange, ed. Matteo Valleriani and Andrea Ottone (Cham: Springer, 2022), 25–59, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86600-6_2.

‘The Dialogue of Ingenuous Students: Early Printed Textbooks at Paris’, in Teaching Philosophy in Early Modern Europe: Text and Image, ed. Susanna Berger and Daniel Garber, Archimedes (Cham: Springer, 2021), 11–30, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84621-3.

‘La pratique mathématique de Charles de Bovelles: la connaissance visuelle comme “méthode élémentaire”’, in Charles de Bovelles philosophe et pédagogue. Suivi de ‘Opuscule métaphysique’ de Charles de Bovelles (1504), ed. Anne-Hélène Klinger-Dollé and Emmanuel Faye (Paris: Beauchesne, 2021), 121–40.

'Methods of Ingenuity: The Renaissance Tradition behind Descartes’s Regulae', in Descartes and the Ingenium: The Embodied Soul in Cartesianism, ed. Raphaële Garrod with Alexander Marr (Leiden: Brill, 2021), 163–83.

‘Outstanding Ingenuity and Graphic Freedom: The Copernican Organon Astronomicon of Jean I Du Temps’, co-authored with Alexander Marr, 21: Inquiries into Art 1, no. 2 (2020): 349–79, https://doi.org/10.11588/XXI.2020.2.76231.

‘Genius and Inspiration in the Early Modern Period’, in Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences, ed. Dana Jalobeanu and Charles T. Wolfe (Cham: Springer, 2020), 1–6, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_377-1.

‘Tutor, Antiquarian, and Almost a Practitioner: Brian Twyne’s Readings of Mathematics’, in Reading Mathematics in Early Modern Europe: Studies in the Production, Collection, and Use of Mathematical Books, ed. Philip Beeley, Yelda Nasifoglu, and Benjamin Wardhaugh (New York: Routledge, 2020), 151–66.

‘Learned Failure and the Untutored Mind: Emblem 21 of Atalanta Fugiens’, in Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s “Atalanta Fugiens” (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, ed. Tara Nummedal and Donna Bilak (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020), https://doi.org/10.26300/bdp.ff.oosterhoff.

“Ingenious Materials: Salts as Material Metaphor,” in Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, http://edition640.makingandknowing.org, eds. The Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano (New York: The Making and Knowing Project, 2020), https://edition640.makingandknowing.org/#/essays/ann_324_ie_19.

‘A Lathe and the Material Sphere: Astronomical Technique at the Origins of the Cosmographical Handbook’, in De Sphaera of Johannes de Sacrobosco in the Early Modern Period: The Authors of the Commentaries, ed. Matteo Valleriani (Cham: Springer, 2020), 25–52. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-30833-9_2

‘Apprenticeship in the Renaissance University: Student Authorship and Craft Knowledge’, Science in Context 32, no. 2 (2019): 119–36.

‘Cusanus and Boethian Theology in the Early French Reform’, in Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World, ed. Simon J.G. Burton, Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 339–66. 

‘Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and Charles de Bovelles on Platonism, Theurgy, and Intellectual Difficulty’, in Plotinus’ Legacy: The Transformation of Platonism from the Renaissance to the Modern Era, ed. Stephen H. Gersh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 73–95.

“‘Secrets of Industry’ for ‘Common Men’: Early French Readerships of Technical Print,” in Translating Early Modern Science, ed. Sietske Fransen (Leiden: Brill, 2017). 

“Lovers in Paratexts: Oronce Fine’s Republic of Mathematics,” Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science 31, no. 3 (2016): 549–83.

“A Book, a Pen, and the Sphere: Reading Sacrobosco in the Renaissance,” History of Universities 28, no. 2 (2015): 1–54.

“Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples,” 12,000-word, invited, peer-reviewed entry for the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, under the section of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Jill Kraye (2015). http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lefevre-etaples/ 

“Idiotae , Mathematics, and Artisans: The Untutored Mind and the Discovery of Nature in the Fabrist Circle,” Intellectual History Review 24 (2014): 1–19.

“Neo-Latin Mathematics,” in Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World: Macropaedia, eds. Philip Ford†, Jan Bloemendal, and Charles Fantazzi, Renaissance Society of America Texts and Studies (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2014), 691-703

“The Fabrist Origins of Erasmian Science: Mathematical Erudition in Erasmus’ Basel,” Erasmian Science, special edition of Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas 3:6 (2014), 3:1-37. http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/2280-8574/814

“From Pious to Polite: Pythagoras in the Res Publica Litterarum of French Renaissance Mathematics,” Journal of the History of Ideas 74, no. 4 (2013): 531–52.

“God, Scripture, and the Rise of Modern Science (1200-1700): Notes in the Margin of Harrison’s Hypothesis,” in Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions: To 1700, ed. Jitse Van der Meer and Scott Mandelbrote, 2 vols., Brill's Series in Church History 36 (The Hague/New York: Brill, 2008). With Jitse van der Meer.


Essay reviews and other writing

‘Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples’, article for Oxford Bibliographies, section Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Margaret King (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Essay review of Pluralité de l’algèbre à la Renaissance, edited by Sabine Rommevaux, Maryvonne Spiesser, and Maria Rosa Massa Esteve (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2012). In Aestimatio 11 (2014): 330–43.

Essay review. “Early Modern Mathematical Practice in the Round.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 43 (2012): 224–27.

Essay review of Natural Philosophy Epitomized: Books 8-11 of Gregor Reisch’s Philosophical Pearl (1503), trans. and ed. Andrew Cunningham and Sachiko Kusukawa (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010). In Aestimatio 8 (2011): 149–61.

More than two dozen shorter reviews in: Renaissance Quarterly; Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics; British Journal of the History of Science; Isis; Intellectual History Review; Nuncius; Studies in History & Philosophy of Science; Aestimatio; Reviews in Religion & Theology; Fides et Historia; American Journal of Physics.

See more at https://edinburgh.academia.edu/RichardOosterhoff