José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez

José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez

Doan Fellow, 2010–2011 (Arriving March 2011)

José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez is a lecturer in the history of science at the University of Valencia (Spain). He is director of the new master's program in “History of Science and Scientific Communication” (University of Valencia-CSIC, 2010–2011). His Ph.D. was about the social history of Spanish science during the Peninsular Wars (1808–1813). He has been a research fellow and a visiting scholar at the Université de Paris X, the Harvard University Department of History of Science, and the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin. 

His main research interests are 19th-century chemistry textbooks and teaching practices, the history of chemical terminology, scientific instruments, experimental practices and material culture of science, and the history of 19th-century toxicology. His main publications include (with Antonio García Belmar) Nombrar la material: una introducción histórica a la terminología química (Barcelona: El Serbal, 1999); (with Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Antonio García Belmar) L'émergence d'une science des manuels: les livres de chimie en France (1789–1852) (Paris: Editions des Archives Contemporaines, 2003); and (with Antonio García Belmar) La revolución química: entre la historia y la memoria (Valencia: PUV, 2006). He has also edited (with Agustí Nieto-Galan) Chemistry, Medicine and Crime: Mateu Orfila (1787–1853) and His Times (Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2006). He is a founding member of the group STEP (Science and Technology in the European Periphery) and COMIC (Catalan Scientific Instruments Commission).

For more information on Bertomeu-Sánchez see

Current Research

At CHF, I will work on a biography of the famous toxicologist Mateu Orfila i Rotger (1787–1853). Orfila combined his forensic practice and laboratory work with his teaching chair at the Paris Medical Faculty. He wrote several influential textbooks that were regularly updated, reprinted, and translated into many European languages during the first half of the 19th century. He was also a prominent figure at the Paris Academy of Medicine and dean of the Paris Faculty of Medicine between 1831 and 1848. The biography of Orfila includes many interesting episodes that shed new light on the changing role of experts in courtrooms and the tensions between science and law during the 19th century. My research will be focused on two ongoing papers: "Parallel Lives: Mateu Orfila and François Magendie on the Absorption of Poisons" (animal experimentation in physiology and toxicology during the early 19th century) and "Normal Arsenic, Expert Controversies and the Problems of Sensitivity in Nineteenth-Century Toxicology" (the early uses of the Marsh test for arsenic in the late 1830s).

Brief CV

Research experience: Bertomeu-Sánchez was awarded a Ph.D. in history of science (thesis on early 19th-century Spanish science) in 1993. From 1994 he has been a lecturer and an assistant professor at the Department of History of Science and Documentation at the University of Valencia. His postdoctoral research was developed at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, IVe section (Paris; 1995–1996), with Danielle Gouzevitch; at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven (1997), with Frederic L. Holmes; and at the University of Paris X, France (1999), Department of Philosophy, with Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent. He has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Department of History of Science (April–August 2001) and Mitarbeiter at Max-Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Berlin, 2004), research group of Ursula Klein for 5 months. He is a founding member of the STEP (Science and Technology in the European Periphery) group and has been a member of the History of Chemistry Working Group (EuCheMs).

Areas of Expertise: History of chemistry, history of toxicology, 19th-century Spanish science, 19th-century French science, scientific travels, chemistry textbooks, teaching practices and the pedagogy of science in a historical perspective, scientific heritage, scientific instruments, material culture of science.

Languages: Spanish, Catalan (mother tongue), French (advanced), English (advanced), German (beginner).

Publications: He has published three books and edited three books. He has published around 27 chapters in various books, some of them published by such important international publishers as MIT Press, Kluwer, and Science History Publications. He has published 20 papers in academic journals (e.g., Asclepio, Dynamis, Ambix, Nuncius, and Medical History) and many reviews and essay reviews. He has been editor of a special volume of Science and Education (2006) and, as chairman of the scientific committee, of the Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of History of Chemistry (with Duncan T. Burns and Brigitte van Tiggelen), Neighbours and Territories: The Evolving Identity of Chemistry, Louvain-La-Neuve (Mémosciences, 2008).                                

Selected Recent Publications

With Garcia Belmar, A. (2000) "Spanish Chemical Textbooks (1788–1845). A Sketch of the Audience for Chemistry in Early Nineteenth-Century Spain," in: B. Bensaude-Vincent; A. Lundgren (eds.), Communicating Chemistry: Textbooks and Their Audiences, 17891939 (Canton, OH: History of Science Publications), pp. 57–91.

With Garcia Belmar, A. (2000) Mateu Orfila's Eléments de chimie médicale and the debate about chemistry applied to medicine during the early XIXth century in France, Ambix, 47, 1–28.

With Bensaude-Vincent, B.; Garcia Belmar, A. (2003), Les manuels d'enseignement de la chimie en France (1789–1852) (Paris, Editions des Archives Contemporaines).

With Garcia Belmar, A. (eds.) (2002) Abriendo las cajas negras: los instrumentos científicos de la Universidad de Valencia (Valencia: Universitat de València).

With Garcia Belmar, A.; Bensaude-Vincent, B. (2002) "Looking for an Order of Ghings: Textbooks and Chemical Classifications in Nineteenth Century France," Ambix 49(2), 227–251.

With Garcia Belmar, A. "Constructing the Center from the Periphery: Spanish Travellers to France at the Time of the Chemical Revolution," in: Ana Simoes, Ana Carneiro, Maria Paula Diogo (eds.), Travels of Learning: A Geography of Science in Europe (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2003), pp. 143–188.

(2004) "Mateu Orfila i Rotger (1787–1853): Science, Medicine and Crime in the Nineteenth Century," Contributions to Science 2(4), 565–578.

With Garcia Belmar, A. (2004) "Atoms in French Chemistry Textbooks during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century: The Elémens de Chimie Médicale by Mateu Orfila (1787–1853),"  Nuncius. Annali di Storia della Scienza 19(1), 78–119.

With Garcia Belmar, A. (2005) "Spanish Chemistry Textbooks during the Late 18th Century: Building Up a New Genre of Scientific Literature," in: M. Feingold; V. Navarro (eds.), Universities and Science in the Early Modern Period (Springer), 241–257.

With Garcia Belmar, A.; Bensaude-Vincent, B. (2005) "The Power of Didactic Writings: French Chemistry Textbooks of the Nineteenth Century," in: David Kaiser (ed.), Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Boston: MIT Press), 219–251.

With Kostas Gavroglu, Manolis Patiniotis, Faidra Papanelopoulou, Ana Simoes, Ana Carneiro, Maria Paula Diogo, Antonio García Belmar, and Agustí Nieto-Galán (June 2008), "Science and Technology in the European Periphery: Some Historiographical Reflections," History of Science 46(152), pt. 2, 153–177.

With Duncan T. Burns, Brigitte van Tiggelen (eds.), (2008) Neighbours and Territories: The Evolving Identity of Chemistry, Louvain-La-Neuve (Mémosciences).

"Popularizing Controversial Science: A Popular Treatise on Poisons by Mateu Orfila (1818)" (July 2009), Medical History 53(3), 351–378.

For more details on the publications of Bertomeu-Sánchez see


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