Haas Fellow, 2011-2012
After graduating from Bowdoin College and working for five years as an investigator of police misconduct in New York City, Matz decided to pursue a doctorate in the history of science at Yale. His dissertation focused on the relationship between agricultural animal breeding and the study of heredity in Germany and the U.S. from around 1860 to 1914.
Expert advice about what and how much we should eat is a prominent feature of American culture in the early twenty-first century. In Matz's research project as a Chemical Heritage Foundation fellow, he will begin to examine the emergence of this scientific perspective on food consumption, focusing on the work of a group of chemists, agricultural scientists, and physiologists in Europe and the United States from the 1870s to around 1920. In addition to closely examining the process of knowledge production within the laboratory, including the development of new instruments like the respiration calorimeter, he plans to consider the ways in which scientific expertise was challenged and put to use in the broader culture.
This project grew out of my dissertation, which looks at the relationship between agricultural animal breeding and the study of heredity in Germany and the U.S. in the years before and after the “rediscovery” of Mendel. While researching and writing my thesis, Matz found a fascinating parallel story taking shape that he knew warranted further investigation. For most agricultural breeders and agricultural scientists, the creation of fine stock through the control of heredity was closely intertwined with proper feeding and the management of an animal’s environment. As a result, agricultural colleges and experiment stations initiated research programs in animal feeding as well as breeding. The research agenda that was pursued within this practical context intersected with groundbreaking work being done by animal physiologists at various universities on respiration and digestion. By the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists interested in human nutrition drew from and expanded on these foundational animal studies and began to delineate a new field of scientific inquiry with great social, political, and economic importance.
During his nine-month stay at the CHF, Matz plans to continue his survey of printed primary source material related to the German and American contexts. He will also begin to examine a rich body of archival material on the science of nutrition in the U.S. that he has identified, including the papers of Wilbur Atwater and Francis Benedict.