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Roy G. Neville Prize in Bibliography or Biography

2017 Neville Prize winner John Powers with Robert Anderson

The Science History Institute is proud not only to honor history-making scientists through its awards program but to honor authors whose work has preserved those stories for generations to come.

Named for chemist and bibliophile Roy G. Neville, the Neville Prize recognizes outstanding works of biography or bibliography. In order to be considered for nomination the work must have been published during a period of five calendar years immediately preceding the year of competition.

2017 Awardee: John C. Powers


John C. Powers

John C. Powers

The Science History Institute is pleased to honor John C. Powers’s book Inventing Chemistry: Herman Boerhaave and the Reform of the Chemical Arts with the seventh Roy G. Neville Prize in Bibliography or Biography. The prize was awarded on Thursday, October 19, 2017, during the Science History Institute’s Board Dinner.

Powers studies the history of the chemical arts and sciences in the 17th and 18th centuries. His book Inventing Chemistry: Herman Boerhaave and the Reform of the Chemical Arts (University of Chicago Press, 2012) examines the role of pedagogy in transforming chemistry into an academic medical subject at the University of Leiden during the tenure of Herman Boerhaave (1668−1738). He received an NSF Scholar’s Award to support his research for the book.

Powers’s current project, on the introduction of thermometry to chemistry in the 18th century, looks at how the new instrument changed and challenged chemists’ traditional knowledge and modes of practice regarding fire and the phenomena of heat. In 2014 his first publication on this topic, “Measuring Fire: Herman Boerhaave and the Introduction of Thermometry into Chemistry,” appeared in Osiris.

Powers is currently an associate professor of history and associate director of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a BS in chemical engineering from Purdue University and a PhD in history and philosophy of science from Indiana University.


Previous Winners of the Neville Prize

  • Melvyn Usselman (2016)
    Pure Intelligence: The Life of William Hyde Wollaston

  • Mary Jo Nye (2013)
    Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science

  • Michael Hunter (2011)
    Boyle: Between God and Science

  • William H. Brock (2009)
    William Crookes (1832–1919) and the Commercialization of Science

  • Michael D. Gordin (2007)
    A Well-Ordered Thing: Dmitrii Mendeleev and the Shadow of the Periodic Table

  • Robert E. Schofield (2006)
    The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Works from 1773 to 1804