Jonathan Seitz, “The Science of Demonology”

Science on Tap

Science on Tap is a monthly gathering that features a brief, informal presentation by a scientist or other expert followed by lively conversation.

In our modern age we have largely banished the study of things that go bump in the night to the margins of respectable society: to parapsychologists, reality TV shows, or costumed guides giving “ghost tours.” But in medieval and early modern Europe the study of demons—demonology—was very much a serious, scientific business. The true nature of demons, their abilities and limitations, and the extent of their activity in the world was much debated by physicians, philosophers, theologians, exorcists, and others.

Jonathan Seitz, a historian of science, magic, and religion, took us through the theoretical and practical sides of European demonology. He promised the encounter with the demons of the Old World would not leave our head spinning . . . but the beer at National Mechanics might have!

Jonathan Seitz is an assistant teaching professor of history at Drexel University. His research on early modern European history has taken him to the libraries and archives of Venice and the Vatican. His work has appeared in numerous journals and in his recent book, Witchcraft and Inquisition in Early Modern Venice.

Presented by the Wagner Free Institute of Science.