Joslyn DeVinney

  • Fellowship year:2022-2023
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: International and Global
  • Dissertation Title: Mysore Science: A Connected History of Eighteenth-Century Natural Knowledge
  • This dissertation uniquely places the eighteenth-century circulation of scientific texts and botanical specimens, across southern India and northern Europe, into our understanding of a global history of science. The kingdom of Mysore (modern day Mysuru, in southern India) was a powerful node in Eurasian commerce and politics from 1761 to 1799. Mysore’s defeat by the British East India Company in 1799 resulted in the dispersal of most of its artifacts to European colonial archives and obscured its contributions to scientific knowledge. A study of Mysore's science provides a non-colonial scientific framework and deprivileges the European colonial sources that still dominate the study of global scientific circulation. My methodology centers Mysore and its epistemologies through multiple lenses: that of the intellectual history of natural scientific knowledge by closely comparing the contents of Mysore’s original scientific manuscripts and its Persian translations of French and English texts; and the material history of scientific knowledge by examining the production of texts as material objects. The French and English scientific texts collected in Mysore have been studied in European histories of science but historians of science have not yet considered Mysore’s Persian translations of these texts, nor rigorously compared them with Mysore’s original Persian sources on scientific knowledge. The Persian originals and translations offer an opportunity to pinpoint the agency of the Mysore court and provide evidence of specific material and intellectual connections. Mysore’s scientific sources thus offer rich evidence of active natural knowledge and material exchange between India, Europe, and the rest of the globe, and reveal the many hands and contingencies that went into the making of the natural sciences.