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Dr Chiara Ambrosio

Dr Chiara Ambrosio

Associate Professor

Dept of Science & Technology Studies

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
30th Aug 2005

Research summary

I am an Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at University College London. My research interests include the relations between art and science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American Pragmatism and the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce, scientific discovery, and general issues in philosophy of science, with a particular focus on scientific representations.

I am passionate about the relationship between science and visual and material culture, the ways in which arguments can be built into pictures and artefacts, and the many ways in which scientists and artists have appropriated each other’s tools, and challenged each other’s ways of knowing. My research in this area includes articles on modernism and science, the history and epistemology of photography, and more recently a chapter on Paul Feyerabend’s views on science and art. I also have a (hopefully healthy?) obsession for the scientist, philosopher, logician, and father of semiotics Charles S. Peirce. My work on Peirce is an effort to make some of his key ideas ‘usable’ by historians and philosophers of science, showing the contemporary relevance of many of his philosophical insights. My publications are listed in the tab below.

I am the Secretary of the British Society for the History of Science, a committee member of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice, and a committee member of the Charles S. Peirce Society. I am the co-founder, with Núria Sara Miras Boronat (University of Barcelona), of the Women in Pragmatism Network.

I am an enthusiastic advocate of the integrated nature of history and philosophy of science. I regularly contribute to the activities of the UK Integrated HPS Network, and I am the co-organiser, with Roman Frigg (LSE), of the annual All-London HPS Reading group. I am also an international collaborator of the LSE Narrative Science Project.

As a good pragmatist, I believe that the best way of approaching history and philosophy of science is through public engagement and collaboration. My research on art and science has been a natural avenue for this, and I regularly collaborate with artists and museums and collections. My latest engagement venture is MUSO, a co-production between museums, academia and improvised opera, which explores the hidden stories of scientific objects and museum displays through a number of unrepeatable improvised performances (more details at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/projects/muso-singing-museums-life# )

The UCL Art Museum and the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy are practically my second homes. If you cannot find me in my office, you have a good chance of finding me there!

Teaching summary

I have taught modules in general history and philosophy of science, science and art, and interdisciplinary research methods at undergraduate and Master level. Currently, I teach:

HPSC0009: Introduction to History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (undergraduate, year 1)

HPSC0014: Philosophy of Science 2 (undergraduate, year 2)

HPSC0111: Science, Art and Philosophy (undergraduate, year 3)

HPSC0059: Science, Art and Philosophy (Master level)

I have had the pleasure of seeing a number of PhD students flourish – primarily for their own brilliance, but I like to think that my supervision played a small role in their success too. Here is a list of what my PhD students have worked on (primary supervisions only, for reasons of space!). Their PhD theses are available open access, and they are all also publishing their work in major journals in the field.

Gemma Anderson, “Drawing as Epistemology for Morphology” (2015)

Chris Campbell, “The Chemistry of Relations: The Periodic Table Examined through the lens of C.S. Peirce’s Philosophy” (2017)

Julia Sánchez-Dorado “Scientific Representation in Practice: Models and Creative Similarity” (2018)

Themistoklis Pantazkos, “Scientific Realism and Phenomenology through the Case Study of Autism” (2019)  

Claudia Cristalli, "The Philosophical Psychology of Charles S. Peirce" (2020)

My current primary supervisions:

Kylo Thomas, “Disrupting White Supremacy: Black Women’s Counterstories of Working in UK Higher Education STEM”

Elena Ktori, “The Art, Science and Philosophy of Electronic Music and Sound: The deconstruction of music through Daphne Oram and her contemporaries in the early British electronic music scene"

Cathy Lucas, “A History of Nineteenth Century Sonic Possibility”

I will not take new PhD students in 2022, but if you have a project on art and science (broadly construed), or on Peirce and science, and if your project can wait a little, do get in touch in 2023.

Education

University of London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2008
Universita degli Studi di Salerno
First Degree, Laurea | 2002

Biography

I first came to UCL as an Erasmus student in 2001. I was an undergraduate student at the University of Salerno then, and UCL opened up a new and exciting world to me. The fact that UCL was strategically placed at the heart of London – with the British Library one step away, and all the major London museums within walking distance – definitely fuelled my love for this city and for what would become my home institution. But it was the History of Science section of the UCL Science Library that made me realise who I wanted to be. It was in the Science Library that I discovered that there was a whole discipline called ‘STS’, and that my work made a lot of sense within that academic community. I completed my degree in Italy as fast as I could, came back to London to start a PhD at UCL STS, and worked really hard to stay. I became a permanent member of staff in STS in 2012.

In a way, it was Peirce who taught me history and philosophy of science and steered me toward what would become my area of specialisation. I stumbled on a short summary of Peirce's concept of iconicity in a course in semiotics when I was a first year undergraduate student, and thought: "he is the one".  With the genuinely daunting and infuriatingly broad range of topics covered in his writings, Peirce became my window on nineteenth century science, its deeply philosophical nature and its endless entanglements with society, institutions, and culture. My favourite pastime (when I do have time!), consists of combing through the footnotes of Peirce’s papers and reading between the lines, looking for historical clues. If you have enough time and patience, Peirce's papers are always full of surprises!

Publications