Research Topic: The Formal Beginnings of the Scientific Expert Witness in the Courtroom (1782-1833)
The expert witness is unique in that they are permitted, by virtue of their knowledge, to speculate to the judge and jury about the nature and meaning of the agreed facts presented to the court.
My project seeks to untangle and illuminate the neglected beginnings of the expert witness.
Therefore, this project at its heart bridges the customarily separate purview of intellectual history and practice-oriented history of science, as courtroom experts challenge both judicial and scientific standards of truth in a deeply practical sense, disagreeing before frustrated judges who in turn lecture juries.
Grounded in case law, this project radiates outward to encompass laboratory experiments, material culture and even pedagogy. Additionally, the expert witness, employed within an adversarial system of law became in their own right a valuable commodity. Furthermore, as exemplified by patent law, experts in their own right sought to define and actively participated in the burgeoning industrial economy. Resultantly, this project engages with the history of modern industrial capitalism.