Donna Bilak is a historian of early modern science, specializing in medico-alchemical laboratory practices in colonial America and England and on the Continent. Her research interests range from the study of emblematics to jewelry history and technology, a topic tied to her previous professional experience in Toronto’s jewelry industry as a designer and wax model maker.
Her current research focuses on the laboratory work of John Allin (1623–1683), a 17th-century Puritan alchemist, and his production of chemical remedies for his own medical practice and commercial gain in the transatlantic pharmaceutical trade. This project examines how Allin’s millenarian religious beliefs shaped his practice of experimental science in England and America. During Donna’s tenure as a Beckman Center short-term fellow, she worked on a critical edition of Allin’s letters and library list. Previously, she coedited with Tara Nummedal a born-digital edition of Atalanta fugiens (1618), a musical alchemical emblem book by the German physician and alchemist Michael Maier.
Donna teaches undergraduate and graduate students as well as adult learners, is a history educator for jewelry industry professionals, and lectures for museum outreach programs. Her teaching practice combines the study of texts, images, and objects with hands-on work using tools and materials.
She received a PhD from the Bard Graduate Center and is the director of 12 Keys Consultancy and Design, LLC.