William J. Turkel

- Professor
- Research Chair - Department of History

image of William J. Turkel
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2004
Email: wturkel@uwo.ca
Office: Lawson Hall 2267
Office Hours via Zoom: By Appointment

Research and Teaching

My research involves computational history, big history, and science and technology studies with a focus on methods. In my work, I often use historical experimentation and reverse engineering to create material objects, typically drawing on mechanical design, 3D printing, and electronics or minimal computing. I teach undergraduate courses on global 21st century history (History 3823G), structured intelligence analysis and the history of espionage (History 4821F) and digital research methods (History 4816A). I am the author of Spark from the Deep (JHU 2013) and The Archive of Place (UBC 2007), and am a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (2018-25).

Past graduate students I have worked with include Adam Crymble, Jennifer Bonnell, Devon Elliott, Jennifer Hambleton, Tristan Johnson, Kimberley Martin, Shezan Muhammedi and Rebecca Woods. Ian Milligan and Daniel Rueck are former postdocs. I am happy to discuss research opportunities with potential students and collaborators any time.

 There is a lot more information about my work on my personal webpage and my open source code is on GitHub.

Selected Publications


  • W. J. Turkel. Spark from the Deep: How Shocking Experiments with Strongly Electric Fish Powered Scientific Discovery. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  • W. J. Turkel. The Archive of Place: Unearthing the Pasts of the Chilcotin Plateau. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.


  • Alan MacEachern and W. J. Turkel, eds. Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2008.

 Open Access Textbooks

  •  W. J. Turkel. Digital Research Methods with Mathematica, 2nd rev. ed. 2020.

 Selected Peer Reviewed Articles and Chapters

  • Jeffrey A. T. Lupker and W. J. Turkel. “Music Theory, the Missing Link Between Music-Related Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, special issue on Audiovisual DH (In Press, 2020).
  • Jeffrey A. T. Lupker and W. J. Turkel. “Observing Mood Based Patterns and Commonalities in Music.” Innovation in Music (2019 edition), edited by Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Justin Paterson, and Rob Toulson. (In Press, Taylor and Francis, 2020).
  • Niels Brügger, Ian Milligan, Anat Ben-David, Sophie Gebeil, Federico Nanni, Richard Rogers, William J. Turkel, Matthew Weber and Peter Webster. “Internet Histories and Computational Methods: A ‘Round-Doc’ Discussion.” Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society (2019). 
  • W. J. Turkel and Edward Jones-Imhotep. “Sensors and Sources: How a Universal Model of Instrumentation Affects Our Experiences of the Past.” Varieties of Historical Experience, edited by Charles Stewart and Stephan Palmie. Routledge, 2019.
  • Edward Jones-Imhotep and W. J. Turkel. “The Analog Archive: Image-Mining the History of Electronics.” Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.
  • Devon Elliott and W. J. Turkel. “Faster than the Eye: Using Computer Vision to Explore Sources in the History of Stage Magic.” Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.

 Recent Conference Presentations

  • F. Michael Bartlett and W. J. Turkel. "Automatically Harvesting High-Quality Images of Historic Bridges," Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2021. 
  • Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. "Using Dimensionality Reduction and Tag Parameter Spaces to Study Historical Change in a Large Document Archive," Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2021.
  • Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. "Studying the Historical Emergence of Manslaughter in English Law using Stable Random Projections and Tag Parameter Spaces," Association for Computers and the Humanities, 2021.
  • F. Michael Bartlett and W. J. Turkel. “Digital Analysis of Historic Bridge Images.” Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT 25), 2020.
  • W. J. Turkel. “Text and Image Mining for Historical Research.” Wolfram Technology Conference, 2020.
  • W. J. Turkel and Zain Sirohey. “A Comparison of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Recognizing Component Assemblies in Image Mining Electronic Circuits,” Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2020.

 Awards and Distinctions

  • Western Award for Innovations in Technology-Enhanced Teaching, 2021.
  • 2004-14 - Project Director of Digital Infrastructure, NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment/ Nouvelle initiative canadienne en histoire de l'environnement (SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster)