*: Peter Chalmers Mitchell, “Life,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911.
I am a historian of science, specializing in the history of the modern life and physical sciences, as well as the history of microscopy. I am currently a Research Associate (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) at the Chair for the History of Science in the Historical Seminar of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, where I am the Principal Investigator on a three-year, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)-funded project “Living Matter Under the Microscope: Protoplasm Theory, ‘wissenschaftliche Mikroskopie,’ and the Molecularization of Cell Structure, 1840–1940” (DFG Project 463389772). I have recently been Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Proteins & Fibers Working Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Department III, where I worked on two projects: one on the history of theories of lactose intolerance, and the second on the history of the use of electron microscopy in virus taxonomy. In 2020 I worked as Digital Humanities Consultant with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library & Archives project “Oral Histories of Biology, Medicine, and Pandemic Response.”
I study how changes in physics and chemistry lead biologists to change their ideas of what living organisms are made of, and how such ideas move back and forth between biology, physics, and the material sciences. My colleagues know me as one of the very few specialists in the history of colloid physical chemistry, and I am among a few historians who study the history of protoplasm theory—an old idea that a special kind of “living matter,” the protoplasm, is the physical basis of life itself. I have a particular interest in the history of microscopy, and my current project at LMU-Munich examines how ideas about the cell’s physical-chemical composition evolved along with changes in microscope technology.
I received my Ph.D. in 2016 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, under the supervision Professor Lynn Nyhart. I have been an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (2016–2018), working in the Biohumanities Research Group, led by Professor Samantha Frost (Political Science). In 2018–2020 I was a Fellow at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry.
You can download and read my publications at my PhilPapers profile. My ORCID iD is 0000-0003-1119-1589. For many years I was a happy user of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter [at] nothingtolius, but since late-2022 I’ve been experimenting with a combination of blogging here and thinking about looking into Mastodon.
Image credit: Nadya Lev, Coilhouse, 2009.
Daniel Liu, PhD
Historian of the modern life and physical sciences.
Principal Investigator, DFG Project 463389772.
Research Associate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar, Abteilung für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.