Dr Elaine Leong

Elaine Leong joined the department in 2019 and holds a Wellcome University Award for the project ‘Technologies of Health c. 1450-1750’. She comes to UCL from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin where she led the Minerva Research Group ‘Reading and Writing Nature in Early Modern Europe’ from 2012 to 2019.

Elaine’s research is centered upon medical and scientific knowledge transfer and production. Her first book Recipes and Everyday Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2018. Using a range of sources such as recipe books, letters and more, the book brings into focus what she terms ‘household science’ – that is, quotidian investigations of the natural world – and situates these within broader and current conversations about gender and cultural history, the history of the book, the history of archives and the history of science, medicine and technology. Recipes and Everyday Knowledge was awarded the 2019 Margaret W. Rossiter Prize by the History of Science Society.

With Alisha Rankin, Elaine has edited Secrets and Knowledge: Medicine, Science and Commerce 1500–1800 (Ashgate Publishing, 2011) and ‘Testing Drugs and Trying Cures,’ Special Issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (2017). Elaine is also co-editor, with Christine von Oertzen and Carla Bittel, of Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) and, with Claudia Stein, of A Cultural History of Medicine in the Renaissance (in press, Bloomsbury, 2019).

Elaine’s current book project Reading Rivière in Early Modern England, uses the story of Lazare Rivière’s (1589-1655) bestselling Praxis medica/The Practice of Physick to explore reading and writing practices as processes of knowledge production, maintenance and transfer. She also co-directs three collaborative research projects – ‘Learning by the Book: Manuals and Handbook in the History of Knowledge’, ‘Translating Medicine in the Premodern World’ and ‘Reading Early Medicine’. Since 2012, Elaine has served on the steering committee of the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective which fosters citizen transcriptions of handwritten recipe texts.

Grants, Fellowships and Awards

Elaine’s research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust and the Max Planck Society and she has held research fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Huntington Library. Her article ‘Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household’, (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2008) was awarded the 2009 J. Worth Estes Prize by the American Association for the History of Medicine and the 2010 Jerry Stannard Award.

PhD supervision

Elaine is interested in supervising PhD students working on early modern history of science, medicine and technology, gender history and book history. She has particular interests in the history of the everyday and of the domestic sphere, print and manuscript cultures, histories of archives and of note-taking, and translation and processes of vernacularization.

Major publications

For a full list of publications, see Elaine’s Iris Profile.