ERC awards five-year grant for research on the construction of scientific knowledge

In her project ‘Medical Electricity, Embodied Experiences, and Knowledge Construction in Europe and the Atlantic World, c.1740–1840’, Postdoctoral Researcher Soile Ylivuori investigates the construction of scientific knowledge in 18th-century Europe and the Atlantic world.

As a case study, she will utilise experiences of electrotherapy. 

According to Soile Ylivuori, the discovery of the principles of electricity in the 18th century saw Europe and North America taken over by a veritable electro-craze, as doctors, natural philosophers and quacks competed in applying this wondrous element to the promotion of human health with a range of experimental methods. 

This is why Ylivuori is looking at medical electricity specifically from the perspective of the bodily experiences and feelings of patients, looking for answers to the following questions, among others: on which and whose ailments were electrotherapies trialled, and whose experiences were considered scientifically significant?

Focus on electrotherapy experiences in the period 1740–1840

By way of the transnational history of electrotherapy, Ylivuori’s project explores the little-researched role of gender- and class-related experiences in the production of scientific knowledge.

“As case studies, our four-person research group will examine electrotherapies administered in London, Paris, Berlin and New England between 1740 and 1840,” Ylivuori says.

The source material for the study is composed of patients’ personal descriptions as well as scholarly and popular texts on electrotherapies, which will be used to investigate the construction of scientific knowledge as a hybridised and heterogeneous process where embodied knowledge plays a key role. 
By utilising phenomenology and cognitive science alongside methods of historical research, the research project aims to expand international research on the history of science and knowledge towards embodied and experiential types of knowledge.

Soile Ylivuori received her PhD from the University of Helsinki (2016). She has worked with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie research grant at Queen Mary University of London, with a research grant awarded by the Beinecke Rare Book Library and the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University in the United States, as well as an Academy of Finland postdoctoral grant at the University of Helsinki. Her previous projects have focused on questions of embodiment, material identities and interaction between knowledge and power in the 18th century. Ylivuori has written a work entitled Women and Politeness in Eighteenth-Century England: Bodies, Identities, and Power (Routledge, 2019) and published several articles in, among others, the Cultural and Social History journal and the Historical Journal. 

Kollegium Talks

On 9 May at 17.00–19.00 at Think Corner, Soile Ylivuori will discuss the topic ‘Decolonising the Enlightenment’ with Charlotte Epstein (University of Sydney) and Rosi Carr (Birkbeck University of London). 

You can also follow the discussion via a live stream

What are ERC Starting Grants?

The ERC Starting Grant is a grant scheme of the European Research Council targeted at promising research directors in the early stages of their careers. 
The funding is intended for establishing a research group and launching independent research activities in Europe.
Starting Grants can be awarded to researchers who have worked for no more than seven years after graduating with a doctoral degree. In addition, grant recipients are required to have a scientific track record that shows great promise and an excellent research proposal.
Their field of research is not restricted.