Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Chair for the History of Science

Dr. Christoffer Basse Eriksen

Dr. Christoffer Basse Eriksen
Visiting Scholar
eriksenc (at)

Department (OKZ)
Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Wissenschaftsgesch. /Schwerpkt. Bild.u.Org.d.Wissens 19./20.Jhd.
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 4092
(030) 2093-70610
Postal Address
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin


Christoffer Basse Eriksen studies the history of early modern science and medicine. He is currently working on a two-year postdoctoral project on the eighteenth-century discovery of insect pollination funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark and based at Humboldt University in Berlin. Before that, he completed his first postdoc at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge (2019-2022). He is currently finishing his first monograph, Scaling Science, which tells the story of how seventeenth-century anatomists and botanists picked up the microscope to study the problem of generation, and how this produced a new science of scale. Christoffer received his Ph.D. in History of Ideas from Aarhus University in 2019. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Sarton Centre for History of Science, Ghent University (2014) and a Visiting Student Researcher at the Department of History, Stanford University (2015). His research has been funded by The Carlsberg Foundation, The Oticon Foundation, the Denmark-America Foundation, the Augustinus Foundation, and others. In 2019, he received the Lisa Jardine Award from The Royal Society.


Research interests

  • History of early modern natural history
  • History of early modern medicine
  • Cultures of scientific observation
  • Visual studies of science
  • History and philosophy of the life sciences


Research project

Orchard Laboratory: Beekeeping, Plant Breeding, and the Enlightenment Discovery of Insect Pollination

The picture of the buzzing bee carrying pollen from flower to flower is one of the strongest images of ecology and the invisible relation between living organisms and their environment. This project examines how a group of Enlightenment beekeepers, plant breeders and gardeners made the first observations of insect pollination within what I term ‘orchard laboratories’. In the orchard laboratory, where beehives stood side by side with fruit trees, eighteenth-century observers mixed interventionist experimentation with meticulous recording to make observations of the relations of nature at work. Whereas the Enlightenment is often portrayed as the age of classification separating nature into discrete kingdoms, this project tells a new history about the importance of invisible relations and the emergence of ecological thought.


Selected publications

Journal articles

“Picturing Seeds of Poppies: Microscopes, Specimens, and Representation in Seventeenth-Century English Botany,” Nuncius 37/2 (2022), 1-28.

“Peber, ingefær, nelliker og muskatnød: Koloniale materialer og naturhistorisk ekspertise i Antoni van Leeuweenhoeks mikroskopiske observationer” [Pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg: Colonial materials and natural-historical expertise in Antoni van Leeuweenhoek’s microscopical observations], Slagmark – tidsskrift for idéhistorie 84 (2022), 16-37.

“Magnifying the first points of life: Harvey and Descartes on generation and scale,” History of Science (2021), 1-22.

”En Newton for græsstrået? Mekanisme, organicisme og disciplineringen af det levende i det 18. århundrede” [A Newton of the blade of grass? Mechanism, organicism, and the discipline of the living in the 18th century], Arr – idéhistorisk tidsskrift 3/4 (2016), 33-43.


Contributed chapters

“Microscopy in Early Modern Natural Philosophy,” The Springer Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences, ed. by Dana Jalobeanu and Charles T. Wolfe (Dordrecht: Springer). 2022.

Co-authored with Barnaby R. Hutchins and Charles T. Wolfe, “The embodied Descartes: Contemporary readings of L’Homme,” in Descartes’ Treatise on Man and its Reception, ed. by Stephen Gaukroger and Delphine Antoine-Mahut (Dordrecht: Springer), 287-304. 2017.

“Circulation of Blood and Money in Leviathan. Hobbes on the Economy of the Body,” in History of Economic Rationalities: Economic Reasoning as Knowledge and Practice Authority, ed. by Jakob Bek-Thomsen et al. (Dordrecht: Springer), 31-41. 2017.


Book reviews

Review of What Does it Mean to be an Empiricist?  Empiricisms in Eighteenth Century Sciences, edited by Siegfried Bodenmann and Anne-Lise Rey (Dordrect: Springer), in Metascience 29/2 (2020), 271-273.

Review of Circulation of Knowledge: Explorations in the History of Knowledge, edited by Johan Östling, Erling Sandmo, David Larsson Heidenblad, Anna Nilsson Hammar, and Kari. H. Nordberg (Lund: Nordic Academic Press), in h-soz-kult (published 29.10.2019).

Review of Life Forms in the Thinking of the Long Eighteenth Century, edited by Keith Michael Baker and Jenna M. Gibbs (Toronto: Toronto University Press), in Isis 108/4 (2017), 907-909.

Review of The Natural and the Human: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1739-1841, by Stephen Gaukroger (Oxford: Oxford University Press), in Early Science and Medicine 21/6 (2016), 605-608.

Co-authored with Charles T. Wolfe, review of The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680-1760, by Stephen Gaukroger (Oxford: Oxford University Press), in Intellectual History Review 26/4 (2016), 561-564.

Review of Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, and the Arts, by E. R. Truitt (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), in Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural 5/1 (2016), 127-132.


Articles for a broader audience

”Skaleringens historie: Kloder og atomer i Voltaires Micromégas” [The history of scaling: Globes and atoms in Voltaire’s Micromégas], in Ny Jord – Tidsskrift for naturkritik 3­–4 (2019), 117-127.

Co-authored with Thomas Palmelund Johansen: ”’Den første bombe kastet mod det gamle regime’ – Voltaire og de engelske breve,” [‘The first bomb thrown against the old regime’ – Voltaire and the letters on the English nation], in Voltaire: De filosofiske breve – om den engelske nation (Aarhus: Klim, 2019), 133-159.

“Åbningen af den usynlige verden” [The emergence of the invisible world], in Ny Jord – Tidsskrift for naturkritik 2 (2016), 78-95.

”Naturhistoriens bestyrer: Efterskrift til Buffon’s ‘Første afhandling’” [The director of natural history: Postscript to Buffon’s ’Preliminary discourse’], in Ny Jord – Tidsskrift for naturkritik 1 (2015), 45-54.

”Molyneux-problemet og naturens umærkelige grader. Sensibilitet og anti-matematik omkring år 1700” [The Molyneux problem and the insensible degrees of nature. Sensibility and anti-mathematics around 1700], in Kulturo - tidsskrift for kunst, litteratur og politik 39 (2015), 64-78.


→ back to top