HPS Graduate Students

photo of Halley Barnet


Edward Halley Barnet

After graduating with a B.A. in history and French literature at the University of Alberta in 2009, I decided to move to France, one of the prime objects of my historical passion. I soon found my way to one of the many modern fragmentations of that great medieval university, the Sorbonne, where I unofficially attended classes at the Institut d'Histoire de la Révolution française for one year. Expanding my knowledge of the labyrinthine networks of French post-secondary education, in 2011 I began a two-years masters in history at Sciences Po. During my second year, through the good council of my thesis advisor, Stéphane Van Damme, I discovered the wealth of intellectual endeavours that is the history of science. In particular, I wrote my masters thesis on the Paris Academy of Sciences during the French Revolution, and its struggles to maintain its institutional status amidst the chaos of political upheaval. Here at Stanford, I am looking forward to expand my research interests beyond the bounds of l'hexagone; in general, I am fascinated by phenomena of knowledge creation, and how issues of epistemology intersect with broader, and narrower, social, political and cultural concerns. I have recently begun to explore the evolution of speculative music within natural philosophy, and I am excited to pursue this line of research in the future.

Of course, my time is not entirely devoted to reading and writing! Outside of school, my greatest passions are cooking, music (I play gypsy jazz) and cycling.

photo of Brad Harris


Bradford Harris

I have always been fascinated with the history of science and technology. I believe that this particular historical field coheres many different academic disciplines and transcends many traditional historiographical boundaries (geographical, temporal, etc.), providing its students with a uniquely comprehensive view of human behavior through the ages. Since arriving at Stanford in the fall of 2008, I have focused my research on the historical relationship between materials engineering and design, business, and environmental and health concerns. My dissertation will explore the historical trajectory of plastics engineering, illuminating shifts in the major plastics feedstocks from bio-based materials through about 1940, to petroleum through the turn of the twenty-first century, with a current shift back to bio-based materials. Resource logistics, policy, and profit projections have all influenced these shifts, and my dissertation is likewise designed to appeal to historians and engineers, policymakers and businesspeople. Studying and working at Stanford has also afforded me the opportunity to enjoy the adventurous and cosmopolitan vibe of the Bay Area. Sailing, dancing, camping, and sports are some of my favorite activities in and around my home in San Francisco.

Brad has won the SHOT 3 minute dissertation video contest, earning him a free trip to the conference of his choice. Congratulations Brad!

Jenny Pegg

photo of Jenny Pegg

"As to the fable that there are Antipodes," St. Augustine wrote in the fifth century, "that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth... men who walk with their feet opposite ours, that is on no ground credible."

I am driven to seek our Antipodes - to pursue awareness of how the ideas and visions of our present are both helped and hindered by the knowledge and assumptions we inherit from our past - to discover ground credible, un-credible, and incredible. I'm drawn to topics in which humanity directly confronts fundamental questions of existence, questions asked in one form or another by men and women in the past, questions that remain with us, often in new forms, in the present. They echo through centuries, even millennia. What do we know of the universe? How do we understand matter, space, and time? What is man in relation to other life? What is the self, the mind and/or (a more recent development) the brain?

I am also interested in the interaction between natural philosophical, and later scientific, knowledge and law, politics and power.

I graduated from Harvard University in 2004 with a degree in astrophysics. Thereafter, I worked in neuroscience research for four years before commencing graduate studies in 2008.


Greg Priest

photo of Greg Priest

I entered the PhD program in History at Stanford in the fall of 2011. I did my undergraduate work at Princeton and have a law degree and a masters in liberal arts from Stanford. Before entering the PhD program, I had careers as a corporate securities lawyer and as an entrepreneur and executive in software companies. My primary interests are in the history and philosophy of biology, particularly evolutionary biology and ecology. I am especially interested in the applications of principles of complex systems to biological processes. My current plan for my dissertation is an historical and philosophical analysis of the "tree of life" diagram from Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. I want to analyze how Darwin came upon the idea for the diagram, how he developed it, and how it can provide us a window through which we can better understand his thinking. I also argue that the diagram can give us a useful framework for analyzing a number of current questions in the philosophy of biology and in evolutionary biology more generally. I am married, have two children and live in San Francisco. I am an avid skier and cook.

Stephan Risi

photo of Stephan Risi

After finishing my B.A in history at the University of Zurich, I entered the History PhD program in 2011 and have since been working on the history of drugs with a particular focus on smoking and addiction.

Drugs make for fascinating objects of historical inquiry because they are always located between the scientific and the cultural, the licit and illicit, the safe and the dangerous. I am interested in questions like: What does transcendence mean if it can be chemically induced? How do drugs shape notions of selfhood? What does it mean to be an addict, an acid-head, or a smoker? How can we understand addiction both as a universal neurochemical process and a specific, historically situated experience?

For my thesis, I investigate how, over the last sixty years, smoking became an addiction, and what role changing addiction paradigms and industry denialism have played in the process. How did industry lawyers, public health researchers, and individual smokers react to the emerging consensus that smoking is an addiction?

What I enjoy most about researching a topic like this is that it allows me to work interdisciplinarily and follow my interests in the biomedical sciences, medical anthropology, philosophy, and the digital humanities.

Alexander Statman

photo of Alex Statman

I began the Stanford PhD program in the History of Science in 2009 after completing an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy at Columbia University. I wrote an undergraduate thesis on the importance of occult sciences to the 16th century study of cosmography, which encompassed the first extensive English writings about the Americas. At Stanford, I am continuing to investigate the history of early-modern European thought in its global context.

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