Nummedal to present Witherspoon Lecture Oct. 4

Talk will focus on intersection of science, gender and religious culture in Reformation Germany

Tara Nummedal, PhD, associate professor of history at Brown University, will present “The Lion’s Blood: Anna Zieglerin and the Alchemical Redemption of the World” for the 2010-11 Witherspoon Memorial Lecture in Religion and Science at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.


Nummedal is the author of Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (2007), which takes fraud as a point of entry into entrepreneurial alchemical practices in central Europe.

She recently was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and an American Council of Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars for her work on Anna Zieglerin.

Nummedal is president of the New England Renaissance Conference and serves on the editorial board of Osiris, the annual publication of the History of Science Society.

Her talk will use the dramatic tale of one of the only women alchemists about whom there are existing sources, Zieglerin, as a point of entry into the intersection of science, gender and religious culture in Reformation Germany.

In the 1570s, Zieglerin practiced alchemy in her own laboratory, recorded her recipes for a powerful golden oil called the lion’s blood and attracted the support of a German duke for her alchemical work.

At the same time, she articulated an eschatological program in which she, as a “new Virgin Mary,” would use the lion’s blood to repopulate the world in preparation for the “Last Days.”

In positioning her body and her alchemy at the center of a spectacular cosmic drama, Zieglerin offers an opportunity for historians to explore the porous boundary between science and religion in the era of the Reformation, says Nummedal.

The Witherspoon Lecture Series was made possible by a grant in 2000 from the late William Witherspoon, an investment banker and a past student and teacher at University College in Arts & Sciences. His gift was motivated by a deep interest in both science and religion.

Nummedal’s lecture, sponsored by the Religious Studies Program in Arts & Sciences, is free and open to the public.

For more information, call (314) 935-8677 or e-mail