About Associate Professor Ofer Gal

Ofer Gal works on the coming to being of science as practice and culture during the 17th century and on the ontological foundations of its success since. He has written on the history of celestial mechanics and optics, on realism and constructivism, on Galileo, Newton, Descartes and Kepler.

Ofer is currently working on two main projects, the first is entitled Baroque Science, in which he attempts to show that the success of late 17th century science was predicated, against common wisdom, on the assumption that nature is an imperfect machine and that mathematics, rather than allowing the submission of all phenomena to a small set of exact and universal laws, is a set of tools for creating human-size approximations. The other project is titled Empiricism and the Life Sciences in Early Modern Thought and is conducted with PhD candidate Alan Salter and APF Charles Wolfe. The project shows that the empiricism and experimentalism that modern science inherited from the 17th century have their origins in anatomy and physiology rather than mechanics, Aristotelian disputation rather than civil discourse, religiously motivated curiosity rather than stately benevolence; that their openness owes more to the public spectacle of the anatomy theatre than to the gentlemanly trust and that its primary source was not the teaching of Francis Bacon but to the anatomical practices of William Harvey.

ARC Discovery Projects:

  • “The Imperfection of the Universe: Music, Mathematics, Technology and the (Dis-) Order of Nature in Baroque Science” ($270,000 2006-2008)
  • “The origins of scientific experimental practices: from the anatomical theatre to the conversations of the Royal Society” ($450, 000 2007-2010).

Selected publications

  • Baroque Optics and the Disapperance of the Observer: from Kepler's Optics to Descartes Doubt. Journal of the History of Ideas 71:2 (2010) 191-217.
  • “Empiricism Without the Senses: How the Instrument Replaced the Eye. The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge: Embodied Empiricism in Early Modern Science. Springer Science:Dordrecth (2010) 121-147.
  • The Use and Non-Use of Mathematics: The Archeology of the Inverse Square Law Part II (with R. Chen-Morris) History of Science 44.1 (March 2006) 49-68.
  • “Hooke’s Programme: Final Thoughts.” Hunter, Michael and Michael Cooper (eds.) Robert Hooke: Tercentennial Studies. Aldershot: Ashgate (2006): 33-48.
  • “The Invention of Celestial Mechanics.” Early Science and Medicine 10.4 (2005): 529-534.