Minakshi Menon

Minakshi MenonResearch Associate  

minakshi.menon [at] mcgill.ca | 3647 Peel, 209| 


Minakshi Menon is a historian of early modern science and medicine. She studies colonial sciences and medical systems in South Asia. Before coming to McGill, she led a Working Group, “Hortus Indicus Malabaricus: the Eurasian Life of a Seventeenth-Century European Botanical Classic,” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. Minakshi’s project has moved with her to SSoM; and is also supported by Laboratoire Sphere/CNRS at Université Paris Cité. It studies the plant descriptions and illustrations in the 12-volume Hortus malabaricus (published 1678-1693), in order to understand the natural-knowledge making practices of Dutch colonists, Brahmin and Ezhava physicians, and other groups in the Malayalam-speaking parts of southwest India.

Minakshi is completing a book manuscript provisionally titled “Empiricism’s Empire: Natural Knowledge Making, State Making and Governance in East India Company India, 1784-1830.” It studies the botanical knowledge making of East India Company savants, William Jones, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, and the Edinburgh-trained medic, Francis Buchanan; and draws on English East India Company records, and manuscripts in Sanskrit, Bengali and Malayalam.

She has held postdoctoral fellowships in Department II of the MPIWG (Lorraine Daston) and the Berlin Center for the History of Knowledge (Humboldt University); and is a founding member and Associate Fellow of the Centre pour le histoire de la philosophie et des sciences vue d’Asie, d’Afrique etc. (CHPSAA), which is part of Sphere. She received her Ph.D. in History and Science Studies from the University of California San Diego.

Research Interests

Colonial sciences in South Asia, history and anthropology of science and medicine in early modern and modern South Asia, 18th and 19th century natural history in Europe and Asia, early modern botanical sciences, visual cultures of science and medicine, translation studies, Indian Ocean World studies, South Asian studies, gender and science, manuscript studies

Recent Publications:

Review: Paul A. Elliott, Erasmus Darwin’s Gardens: Medicine, Agriculture, and the Enlightenment Sciences Isis: Vol 114, No. 1, March 2023



Edited Special Issue South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2022: “Indigenous Knowledges and Colonial Sciences in South Asia”



Introduction: Indigenous Knowledges and Colonial Sciences in South Asia



What’s in a Name? William Jones, ‘philological empiricism’ and botanical knowledge making in eighteenth-century India



Nominated for the J. Worth Estes Prize of the American Association for the History of Medicine

Multimedia (Recent)

“Decolonizing Herbarium Collections.” Gardens of Empire. On the politics of collecting nature. Part of series 99 Questions: Colonialism and Coloniality, Humboldt Forum, Berlin, 21/02/2022 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mm0A9uZ8zQ&t=1524s

“Missing Voices: South Asian Perspectives on the Gwillim Archives” McGill Library/Digital Museums Canada 2023 





This project (PI Dr. Victoria Dickenson) has been awarded the President’s Medal of the Society for the History of Natural History for 2023

Stay Connected

Back to top