Ada Palmer, Assistant Professor of Early Modern European History released her first work of fiction, Too Like the Lightning, in May 2016 and has since received both critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. Too Like the Lightning is a Hugo Award Best Novel Finalist (for the best works of science fiction, fantasy or related subjects) and a Compton Crook finalist (for first novels) and on the Tiptree Honors List (for works which expand and explore gender). Palmer is also a Campbell Finalist, which honors the best new authors of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects who debuted in 2015-16.
Palmer's first book, a work of non-fiction, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, explores scholars' use of Lucretius's Epicurean didactic poem De Rerum Natura from its rediscovery in 1417 to 1600, focusing on how humanist reading practices helped controversial ideas like atomistic physics and denial of the afterlife to circulate broadly despite their conflicts with Christianity. Her research focuses on intellectual history, or the history of ideas, and explores how history and thought shape each other over time. Palmer says the Italian Renaissance is a perfect moment for approaching this question because at that point the ideas about science, religion, and the world that had developed in the Middle Ages suddenly met those of the ancient world, reconstructed from rediscovered sources.
"All at once many beliefs, scientific systems, and perceived worlds clashed, mixed, and produced an unprecedented range of new ideas, which in turn shaped the following centuries and, thereby, our current world," explains Palmer.
In addition to her appointment in the Department of History, Palmer is also affiliated faculty in the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, associate faculty in the Department of Classics, and a member of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge.