Our museum and library is closed today in celebration of Juneteenth.

Al Coppola in glasses outdoors in urban (New York) environment

Al Coppola

Otlet Fellow

Al Coppola is an Associate Professor of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York.  His research explores the innovations of the 18th century that structure the 21st century modernity, with a special interest in the roles that science, spectacle, and quantification have and continue to play in what makes us modern.  His first book, The Theater of Experiment: Staging Natural Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain, was published by Oxford University Press in 2016.  A critical study of science in performance and science as performance in the Enlightenment, the book analyzes both the role of spectacle in the creation and verification of natural facts and the ways in which science was itself performed in both domestic and theatrical spaces.

Professor Coppola is at work on a new book project that studies the 18th century innovations that structure 21st century modernity. Enlightenment Visibilities explores a range of strategies and technologies, first innovated in the long eighteenth century, that bring previously unimaginable or imperceptible phenomena into the domain of knowledge. The book is comprised of two sections: “Visibilities” focuses on technologies of perception that remade the perceiving self, with chapters on the quantified body, which explores the role of quantification in physiology from Newtonian iatromechanical medicine to the Fitbit, along with the ontological legacies of eighteenth-century microscopy, from Wilson’s pocket microscope to the Oculus Rift. The “Enlightenment” section explores the operationalization of these formerly imperceptible objects of knowledge, with chapters here on the rage for mathesis triggered by Newton’s calculus and its return in the guise of Complexity Science in the era of Big Data.

Professor Coppola is the past chair of the Columbia University Seminar in Eighteenth-Century European Culture, which he led from 2010 to 2016.  He is also a cofounder of the Science Studies Caucus of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies.