Jean-Olivier Richard


Assistant Professor



Office Phone: 416.926.2097 ext. 62097


Jean-Olivier Richard grew up in a suburb of Montreal, received his B.A. from Concordia University in 2009, and completed his Ph.D in the history of science and technology department at the Johns Hopkins University in 2015-16. In 2016-17, he conducted research as a Cain Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now Science History Institute) in Philadelphia. Professor Richard’s academic interests include the relationship of natural philosophy with Christian theology in the early modern era, Jesuit history, environmental history, and the history of alchemy, astrology, and magic. What ties these subjects together is his fascination with the polymathic endeavours and universal systems of ecclesiastical thinkers, as well as the ways in which the past — real or imagined — inspired early modern discoveries. His current research focuses on the life and world of the French Jesuit Louis-Bertrand Castel (1688-1757), with a particular emphasis on his theory of the action of man on nature. He is revising his dissertation, “The Art of Making Rain and Fair Weather,” into an intellectual biography that will foreground Castel’s intellectual contribution — including his famous color harpsichord — to the Enlightenment.

Professor Richard’s other interests include New France’s intellectual and military history, as well as cognitive sciences. In his spare time, he draws, practices and teaches martial arts, and volunteers for Action Haiti, a Quebec-based organization working with Haitian schools.

Areas of Interest

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Christianity and science

History of science (from the late middle ages to the modern era)

History of magic, alchemy, and astrology

Jesuit history

Early modern and Enlightenment France


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Peer-Reviewed Articles:

“What Père Lafitau Learned from the American Diviner.” Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 12. 3 (Winter 2017): 331-361. Print (forthcoming).

“The Jesuit Who Wanted to Control the Climate: Père Castel and the Religious Roots of the Anthropocene.” Modern Language Notes 132. 4 (Sept. 2017 [January 2018]): 931-52. Print.

“Bougainville à la lumière de ses lectures: Les références classiques dans les Écrits sur le Canada.” Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique Française 64. 2 (2010 [2011]): 5-31. Print.


Book reviews:

Mark A. Waddell, Jesuit Science and the End of Nature’s Secrets. Journal of Jesuit Studies 4. 1 (2017): 137-140. Print.

Didier Kahn, Le fixe et le volatile. Early Science and Medicine 21. 4 (2016): 382-384. Print.

Bernard Barthet, Science, histoire et thématiques ésotériques chez les jésuites en France (1680-1764). Archivium Historicum Societatis Jesu 82 (2013 I): 283-285. Print.

Andreas Motsch and Gregoire Holtz, ed. Éditer la Nouvelle-France. Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique Française 64. 3-4 (Winter-Spring 2011): 197-200. Print.