Jim outdoors, smiling, wearing glasses and suit and tie

James Voelkel

Curator of Rare Books

James R. Voelkel is a historian of early modern science. He is curator of rare books at the Othmer Library of Chemical History and resident scholar in the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Science History Institute. He is the author of The Composition of Kepler’s Astronomia nova (Princeton University Press, 2001) and the biography Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Voelkel has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University. He is a longtime contributor and senior consultant to the Chymistry of Isaac Newton project. He also teaches the course “The Scientific Revolution” at the University of Pennsylvania. He previously curated the rare-book exhibitions The Alchemical Quest and Books of Secrets in the Institute’s Hach Gallery.

Voelkel holds degrees in astronomy and physics from Williams College and in history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. He received his PhD in history of science from Indiana University.

More from James Voelkel

illustration of a French cafe

A Matter of Taste

The latest exhibition from our A Closer Read series examines distilling, café culture, and the science of flavor during the Enlightenment.

Illustrations of the human heart and blood vessels

Blood and Fire

From our A Closer Read series, this exhibition featured rare books that tell the story of experimental science in the 17th century.

Statue of Copernicus

The Revolution in Astronomy, 1500–1650

In this four-part Roundtable course, James Voelkel will cover the period in astronomy surrounding Copernicus’s proposal that the earth revolves around the sun.

illustration of a people making paper

Chasing the Clues in Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts

The tricks and tools book sleuths use to date the undated.

The Newton Mess

What a manuscript can tell us about an iconic scientist and the history we’ve built around him.

Would a Book Lie?

The clues that betray a book’s disreputable past.