Medicine and the body; history of perception and visual culture; history of social science; American intellectual and cultural history
Michael Rossi is an historian of medicine and science in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. His work focuses on the historical and cultural metaphysics of the body: how different people at different times understood questions of beauty, truth, falsehood, pain, pleasure, goodness, and reality vis-à-vis their corporeal selves and those of others.
His first book manuscript traces the origins of color science—the physiology, psychology, and physics of color—in the late-nineteenth-century United States to a series of questions about what modern America ought to be: about the scope of medical, scientific, and political authority over the sensing body; about the nature of aesthetic, physiological, and cultural development between individual and civilization; about the relationship between aesthetic harmony, physiological balance, and social order.
His second project looks at how linguists, anatomists, and speech pathologists moved, over the course of the twentieth century, from viewing language as a function of sound-producing organs (tongue, lips, palate, larynx, etc.) to searching for a notional “language organ” within the brains of all human beings. Such interpretative shifts in understanding human anatomy are neither an ancient phenomenon nor one limited to extreme medical specialization, but rather are ongoing issues, providing a window on the social, political, and philosophical understanding of modern bodies, medicine, and science.
Prior to Chicago, Michael was a postdoctoral fellow in the Groupe Histoire des sciences de l’homme at the Ecole Normale Superieur de Cachan in France. He received a PhD in the history and anthropology of science, technology, and society from MIT and a AB from Columbia University.