Nicholas Harris

Nicholas Harris

Nicholas Harris

Price Fellow

  • Phone: 215.873.8242

Nicholas Harris is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Religious Studies. He will be finishing his dissertation, “Better Religion through Chemistry: Aydemir al-Jildakī and Alchemy under the Mamluks,” as the Price Fellow for 2013–2014. His dissertation aims to “resurrect” (in a scholarly sense only) the 14th-century Egyptian alchemist Aydemir al-Jildakī and to situate him within the broader frameworks of medieval Islamic history and the history of chemistry.

In researching al-Jildakī’s corpus of alchemical texts Nick spent a summer working in the grand old libraries of Europe photographing and studying manuscripts of Jildakī’s  works and other alchemical curiosities. His current collection includes dozens of digital copies of manuscripts. By focusing so acutely on manuscript evidence for the study of medieval Arabic texts, Nick hopes to elucidate the sometimes peculiar roles that the book as an object has played within the dissemination of ideas, especially alchemical ones.

Nick received his B.A. and his M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. His master’s thesis examined the transmission and translation of the Buddha’s biography into Arabic. In addition to his interests in the history of science Nick has also presented papers on medieval Islamic mining law, poisons in medieval medicine, and the career of the fascinating orientalist Paul Kraus. Within the Department of Religious Studies at Penn, Nick recently taught a course of his own design on the history of Islamic civilization titled “Islamicate Networks.” He is also developing a year-long course covering approaches to the study of religion that would aim to orient students to the field of religious studies as a fundamental component of a liberal-arts education.

When not attempting to decipher arcane Arabic terms for plant materials or minerals, Nick enjoys reading continental philosophy and debating the best locations in Philadelphia to eat sandwiches. He lives in West Philadelphia with his wife and their 2,000 (and counting) books.

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Enjoy a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch while listening to CHF scholars share their research.

Fellowships at CHF


CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.