Academic Interests

    Recent Commons Activity


    I am a cultural and intellectual historian focusing on radical thought and the recovery of the classics in early modern Europe, especially the Italian Renaissance. I am an Associate Professor in the History Department of the University of Chicago, with affiliations in Classics, Gender Studies, Fundamentals, and the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. I work on the history of science, religion, heresy, freethought, atheism, censorship, books, printing, and the networks of money and power that enable cultural production. My current research focuses on censorship during information revolutions, and how studying the print revolution can help lawmakers and corporations make wiser choices during the digital revolution,. My first academic book Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (HUP, 2014) explores the impact of the rediscovery of classical atomism on the birth of modern thought. I am disabled (chronic pain) and a disability activist, and work a lot on mentoring, healthy work habits, self-care, universal design, and inclusive pedagogy, including working with the RSA mentoring committee.  I also work a lot with experimental pedagogy, especially gamification, role-play, creative writing, and material reconstruction projects as tools for teaching history.

    Separately, I am a science fiction and fantasy novelist, author of the award-winning Terra Ignota series beginning with Too Like the Lightning (Tor Books), which explores a twenty-fifth civilization of voluntary citizenship and borderless nations, written in the a style of an eighteenth-century philosophical novel. I am a composer, study and publish on anime and manga, work as a consultant for anime and manga publishers, blog for, and write the philosophy and travel blog


    • Ph.D. Harvard University

    • B.A. Bryn Mawr College

    • A.A. Simon’s Rock College of Bard

    Blog Posts


      My series of filmed discussions of Censorship During Information Revolutions, co-organized with Cory Doctorow and Adrian Johns, examines how new information technologies always trigger new attempts to censor and control the new media, comparing the print revolution to the digital revolution and others. The whole series is available filmed streaming online, with closed captioning. If anyone wants to use it for teaching (a great tool during the current COVID shutdown), contact me at adapalmer at uchicago dot edu and I’ll be happy to share a PDF of the catalog for the associated rare books museum exhibit.

      Ada Palmer

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      Active 3 years, 4 months ago