Dr Xiaona Wang

Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Xiaona Wang
Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellow, August 2019 to 1June 2020

project: Ideas in Practice: Newtonian Medicine in Eighteenth‐Century Scotland

I received my PhD from Edinburgh University in April 2019. My doctoral dissertation was a study devoted to uncovering the historical background to the various occult traditions that Newton embraced and incorporated into his natural philosophy. My thesis was based on the premise that the achievement of Newton was influenced not just by alchemy, but by various other occult traditions that have received far less scholarly attention. It therefore focuses on various less prominent occult traditions in England, expounding them as they are discussed by various earlier thinkers, and by contemporaries of Newton’s, and showing in detail how these ideas were taken up by Newton to become essential aspects of his natural philosophy.

Following on from my doctoral research on the English background to Newtonian natural philosophy, I now intend to turn to the scene in Scotland, and in particular to focus on the Scottish medical practitioners who not only promoted Newtonianism but also developed a distinctly Newtonian kind of medicine. Additionally, I wish to investigate the role played by Newtonian physicians in promoting Newtonianism more widely. There are a number of research questions which would be addressed in this project. Why were Scottish thinkers quicker to embrace Newton’s philosophy than English thinkers? Why did Newton’s philosophy appeal to medical practitioners, and lead them to develop a new Newtonian medicine? How diverse were the different versions of Newtonian medicine offered by different thinkers? These are questions that I hope to explore during my fellowship at IASH.

I am currently taking up the Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellowship at IASH, from August 2019 to June 2020, which I will combine with a Society for Renaissance Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, over the same period. I have published a prize-winning essay on early modern theories of generation in Intellectual History Review (2019), and an article on Francis Bacon’s contribution to “magnetical cosmology” in Isis (2016). I have also published in two leading Chinese journals, and work as a translator from English into Chinese.