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Professor Michael Hunter

Emeritus Professor of History in the Dept of History, Classics and Archaeology

(Elected 2012)

Professor Michael Hunter, Emeritus Professor of History at Birkbeck, is the world’s foremost expert on Robert Boyle, the seventeenth-century scientist who was one of the founding members of the Royal Society.

A historian of international stature, Professor Hunter has made an incomparable contribution to the understanding of early modern science. During the past 20 years he has been the principal editor of Boyle’s Works (14 volumes, 1999-2000), Correspondence (6 volumes, 2001) and Workdiaries. These editions built on his work in the late 1980s in cataloguing Boyle’s vast archive.

Professor Hunter’s biography of the scientist, Boyle: Between God and Science, was published in 2009 by Yale University Press and issued in paperback in 2010. In 2011, it was the winner of both the Samuel Pepys Award and the Roy G. Neville Prize. This drew on various interpretive studies of Boyle that Professor Hunter had published over the previous two decades, which presented Boyle as an anxious and convoluted figure, in contrast to the lay saint of traditional historiography. His work in this area led to him being elected to a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007.

‘My work on Boyle grew out of earlier work on the milieu of the "new science" associated with the Royal Society in its formative years, which I have continued in parallel with my work on Boyle,’ said Professor Hunter. ‘I have also investigated various themes in the history of ideas in the period, including changing attitudes towards magic.’

More broadly, Professor Hunter is interested in the culture of early modern England as a whole, especially its visual culture, and between 2006-9 he directed a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a digital library of British printed images to 1700. His scholarly interests are reflected in a conference, ‘Science, Magic and Religion in the Early Modern Period’ to be held by the Birkbeck Early Modern Society in February 2013 to mark Professor Hunter’s retirement.

Professor Hunter is a keen motorcycling enthusiast, who often travels by motorbike to fulfil his academic and other commitments. He added: ‘Having taught at Birkbeck for virtually my entire academic career, I am flattered and delighted to be appointed a Fellow of the College.’