Current research projects
Professor Van Damme’s research examines the origins of early modern scientific knowledge within European Culture during a long period (1650-1870) by looking at essential elements overlooked by historians of science and knowledge such as scientific centres (Lyon, Paris, London, Edinburgh, New York), founding fathers of the Scientific Revolution (Descartes), paradigmatic disciplines (philosophy, natural history, antiquarianism, geography, anthropology), and recently, imperial projects (mainly in North America and India). He works also on the birth of archaelogy in the urban context including museum studies and collections.
Currently, he is working on two different projects. First, he will publish soon a book on naturalists, natural philosophers, and traveling scholars who contested the establishment of a new order of knowledge in the wake of the French Empire..
The second project deals with another foundational divide of the Enlightenment which opposed nature and city. By following the rise and fall of a natural history of metropolises, this project undertakes an archaelogy of urban ecological knowledge (urban geology, urban mineralogy, urban botany, urban chemistry, medicine) in relation with the commodification of urban nature (collections, invention of 'green belt', new consumptions). Based on the tales of three cities (Paris, London and New York), the project is addressing 18th and 19th centuries.