Charles Ashley Kollmer
Charles Kollmer concentrates on the history of the modern biological sciences. His research explores how geography, institutions, and experimentation shaped the scientific study of life, and how scientists’ changing understandings of life reverberated throughout the world.
His dissertation, “From Elephant to Bacterium: Microbial Cultures and the Chemical Order of Nature, 1912-1946,” looks at how microbiologists cultivated pure cultures and concocted the media that those cultures needed to grow. Their attention to microbial nutrition and metabolism yielded compelling evidence of life’s unity at the chemical level, a conviction with profound consequences for the research practices and desiderata of the biological sciences at large. To trace these developments, the dissertation reconstructs the career paths and benchwork of microbiologists in Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and the United States. This transnational approach to the history of microbial cultures brings into view a dense and variegated web of connections that transected disciplinary and geographic boundaries.
Before coming to Princeton, Charles Kollmer earned a B.A. in English literature from Williams College and an M.A. in interdisciplinary humanities and social thought from New York University. He spent 2013-2014 as a Fulbright grantee at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, where he researched the history of plant genetics and physiology in National Socialist Germany. In 2017-2018, he resided in Paris, where he was affiliated with the Institut de l’histoire et de la philosophie des sciences et des techniques (IHPST). Currently, he resides in Brooklyn.