Colonial Chymistry: Gershom Bulkeley and the 17th-Century Connecticut Alchemical Laboratory

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

This talk explores the relationship between alchemical laboratory work and the early modern scientific household economy in the Anglo-Atlantic colonial world by focusing on the 17th-century Connecticut minister, physician, and alchemist Gershom Bulkeley. Elliott will also examine the sources of goods brought into Bulkeley’s laboratory: from both local sources and the wider Atlantic region. These goods included not just ingredients for experimentation and medical production but also alchemical books that undoubtedly provided a textual tradition with which Bulkeley was able to engage. However, beyond these transatlantic ties to European print culture, commerce, and science, Elliott seeks to draw out alchemy’s ties to its specific colonial context and the potential sources of labor and knowledges present within this scientific household, from the African slave Hannah to women within the Bulkeley family.

George Elliott bio_photo.jpg

George Elliott Photo

George D. Elliott

About the Speaker

George Elliott is a third-year PhD candidate at Brown University. His current interests are centered on the history of early modern science and alchemy in the Anglo-American world. In his dissertation titled “Alchemy in the Home: Colonial Connecticut and Household Science in the 17th-Century Anglo-Atlantic,” he is examining the work of the physician and alchemist Gershom Bulkeley and his family, who lived in central Connecticut Colony.

Elliott earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. That thesis explored the impact and appeal of the influential alchemist George Starkey on the members of the Hartlib circle of natural philosophers in mid-17th-century London. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2013 from Indiana University in his home state.


About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.