Katharine Park’s research and teaching focuses on the history of science and medicine in medieval and early modern Europe, with special attention to gender, sexuality, and the history of the body. Her work stresses the interconnection of knowledge and practice and the importance of relating both to the social, institutional, and cultural contexts that produced them. She has pushed these interests in several different directions. One group of works, including her first book, Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence (Princeton University Press, 1985), highlights the importance of studying the work of artisanal and empirical practitioners, male and female, alongside that of university-educated physicians. In more recent articles, as well as in her monograph, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (Zone Books, 2006), she describes the way in which the medical technique of human dissection grew out of empirical practices such embalming, forensic autopsies, midwifing procedures, and obstetrical surgery.
Additional areas of interest include the visual cultures of medieval and early modern science, including the use of allegorical imagery to express changing attitudes toward nature and human authority; the history of ideas of sex difference and sexuality in medieval and early modern natural philosophy and medicine; and changing ideas of the natural order reflected in the intense fascination with wonders and miracles on the part of all sectors of European society in this period. The last is the subject of the book she co-authored with Lorraine Daston, "Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750" (Zone Books, 1998). She and Daston also co-edited volume 3 of "The Cambridge History of Science" (Cambridge University Press, 2006), on science in early modern Europe. Park is currently working on two separate projects. "Knowledge on the Move: Scientific Encounters Between the Muslim and Christian Worlds," a collaboration with Professor Ahmed Ragab of the Harvard Divinity School, aims to produce a new, integrated narrative of the history of medieval science that emphasizes the ongoing circulation of people, knowledge, objects, and texts between the Islamicate lands and Latin Christian Europe. "The Science of the Senses: Experience and Observation in Medieval Science," a book-in-progress, will emphasize the role of sensory inquiry in a field often mischaracterized as entirely based on textual learning and will argue the existence of important continuities between early modern empirical and experimental practices and their medieval analogues. Early versions of this argument appear in her articles, “Natural Particulars” (1999) and “Observation on the Margins” (2011).In 2001, "Wonders of Nature," which has also appeared in Italian and German translation, was awarded the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society and the Roland H. Bainton Prize (History and Theology) of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference. "Secrets of Women" won the Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women and Science Prize of the HSS in 2007 and the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association of the History of Science in 2009, and appeared in French in the same year. Park was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and was awarded the 2016 Sarton Medal in recognition of her outstanding scholarly achievements.
Park received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of Science, an M.Phil. from the University of London (Warburg Institute) in Combined Historical Studies of the Renaissance, and a B.A. from Radcliffe College in History and Literature (Renaissance and Reformation).
- (with Lorraine J. Daston) "Hermaphrodites in Renaissance France," Critical Matrix 1 (1985): 1-19.
- (with Eckhart Kessler) "The Concept of Psychology," in Charles B. Schmitt et al., eds., The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, ch. 13.
- "The Organic Soul," in ibid., ch. 14.
- (with Robert A. Nye), "Destiny is Anatomy," essay review of Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990), The New Republic (18 February 1991): 53-57.
- (with John Henderson) "'The First Hospital among Christians': The Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Early Sixteenth-Century Florence," Medical History 35 (1991): 164-88.
- "Healing the Poor: Hospitals and Medical Assistance in Renaissance Florence," in Jonathan Barry and Colin Jones, eds., Medicine and Charity before the Welfare State, London: Routledge, 1991, 26-45.
- "Medicine and Society in Medieval Europe, 500-1500," in Andrew Wear, ed., Medicine in Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 59-90.
- "The Sensitive Corpse: Body and Self in Renaissance Medicine," Fenway Court, 1990-91, Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992, 77-87.
- "The Black Death," in Kenneth F. Kiple, ed., The Cambridge World History of Human D
- (with Lorraine J. Daston) "Unnatural Conceptions: Monsters in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France and England," Past and Present 92 (1981): 20-54.
- isease, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 612-16.
- "Kimberly Bergalis, AIDS, and the Plague Metaphor," in Marjorie Garber, Jann Matlock, and Rebecca Walkowitz, eds., Media Spectacles, New York: Routledge, 1993, 232-53.
- "The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy," The Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994): 1-33.
- "The Life of the Corpse: Dissection and Division in Late Medieval Europe," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 50 (1995): 111-32.
- (with Lorraine J. Daston) "The Hermaphrodite and the Orders of Nature: Sexual Ambiguity in Early Modern France," GLQ: 1 (1995): 419-38.
- “The Meanings of Natural Diversity: Marco Polo on the ‘Division‘ of the World,” in Edith Sylla and Michael R. McVaugh, eds., Texts and Contexts in Medieval Science: Studies on the Occasion of John E. Murdoch’s Seventieth Birthday, Leiden: Brill, 1997, 134-47.
- “The Rediscovery of the Clitoris: French Medicine and the Tribade, 1570-1620,” in Carla Mazzio and David Hillman, eds., The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe, New York: Routledge, 1997, 171-93.
- “Masaccio’s Skeleton: Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy,” in Rona Goffen, ed., Masaccio’s Trinity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, 119-40.
- “Eyes, Bones, and Hernias: Surgical Specialists in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Italy,” in Jon Arrizabalaga, ed., Medicine from the Black Death to the French Disease, London: Ashgate Press, 1998, 110-30.
- “Magic and Medicine: The Healing Arts,” in Judith C. Brown and Robert C. Davis, eds., Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy, London: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.
- “Impressed Images: Reproducing Wonders,” in Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison, eds., Picturing Science, Producing Art, New York: Routledge, 1998, 254-71.
- “Natural Particulars: Epistemology, Practice, and the Literature of Healing Springs,” in Anthony Grafton and Nancy G. Siraisi, eds., Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1999, 347-67.
- “Dissecting the Female Body: From Women’s Secrets to the Secrets of Nature,” in Adele Seeff and Jane Donawerth, eds., Attending to Early Modern Women, Newark: University of Delaware Press; London/Toronto: Associated University Presses, 2000, 29-47.
- “Country Medicine in the City Marketplace: Snakehandlers in Renaissance Italy,” Renaissance Studies, 15 (2001): 104-20.
- “Was There a Renaissance Body?” in Walter Kaiser and Michael Rocke, eds., The Italian Renaissance in the Twentieth Century = I Tatti Studies, vol. 19, Florence: Olschki 2002, 21-35.
- “Nature in Person: Renaissance Allegories and Emblems,” in Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal, eds., The Moral Authority of Nature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, 50-73.
- “Women, Gender, and Utopia,” in Focus section, “Getting Back to The Death of Nature: Rereading Carolyn Merchant,” Isis 97 (2006): 487-95.
Books & Publications
- Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985
- (with Lorraine J. Daston), Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750, New York: Zone Books, 1998
- Secrets of Women - Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection: Zone Books, 2006
- (with Lorraine J. Daston, co-editor), The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006
- Italian translation: Le meraviglie del mondo. Mostri, prodigi e fatti strani dal Medioevo all’Illuminismo, Rome: Carocci, 2000.
- German translation: Wunder und die Ordnung der Natur, 1150-1750, trans. S. Wohlfeil and Ch. Krueger, Frankfurt: Eichborn, 2002.