Henry Schmidt

PhD Candidate

History of Science


BA in History of Art, English Literature, Williams College (2014)

MPhil in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science, Technology and Medicine, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge (2016)


Robin Hill’s Cloud Camera: Meteorological Communication, Cloud Classification,” in The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Objects and Investigations, ed. J. Nall, L. Taub, F. Willmoth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Selected Awards and Fellowships

S. Lane Faison, Jr. 1929 Prize

Redhead Prize, 2016

Rausing Prize, 2016

Dr. Herchel Smith Fellowship at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, 2014-2016

DAAD Summer Language Grant, 2019

Smithsonian Institution Fellowship, 2021-2022

Research Fellowship, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Spring/Summer 2022


My dissertation studies the ethnology of ‘invention’ in the late nineteenth century. My central episode occurs in the final three decades of the nineteenth century, among ethnologists based at the Bureau of Ethnology and the young US National Museum in Washington, DC. The likes of Otis T. Mason, WJ McGee, John Wesley Powell, and their colleagues--all employed by the federal government--developed a program of research centered on practical artifacts representing invention as the definitive process of cultural production. I explain why they interpreted objects as inventions,  therefore linking them to a concept primarily associated with patent law, and how doing so shaped later narratives of technological change.

This research is one aspect of my investigations into how the late nineteenth century comparative social sciences developed novel understandings of artifacts and their making as expressions of intelligence, and specifically an intelligence that is embodied, practical, developmental, and creative.