William J. Turkel

- Professor
- Research Chair - Department of History

PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2004
Telephone: 519-661-2111 ext. 87433
Email: wturkel@uwo.ca
Office: Lawson Hall 2267
Office Hours: Thursdays 2:30pm-3:20pm (Fall)
Wednesdays 10:3am-11:20am (Winter), or by appointment


I do computational history, big history, STS, physical computing, desktop fabrication, sound and electronics. In addition to ongoing research collaborations in digital history, I am also working on global 21st century history and two projects in the history of technoscience. One is a study of attempts to build a self-replicating device, from the machine tools of the Industrial Revolution to the 3D printers of today, and the other concerns mid-20th-century analog electronic computing and the roles it played in fields ranging from science and engineering to avant-garde art. Both projects draw on historical experimentation and reverse engineering through the creation of material objects.

Past 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.

I am a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (2018-25) and of the Centre for Computational and Quantitative Social Science in Western's Network for Economic and Social Trends (NEST).

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. 2015.


Selected Peer Reviewed Articles

  •      - Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. “The Old Bailey Proceedings, 1674-1913: Text Mining for Evidence of Court Behavior,” Law and History Review 34, no. 4 (November 2016).
  •      - Anne Helmreich, Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. “Rethinking Inventories in the Digital Age: the Case of the Old Bailey,” Journal of Art Historiography 11 (December 2014).
  •      - W. J. Turkel, Shezan Muhammedi and Mary Beth Start. “Grounding Digital History in the History of Computing.” IEEE Annals for the History of Computing 36, no. 2 (2014): 72-75.
  •      - Devon Elliott, Robert MacDougall and W. J. Turkel. “New Old Things: Fabrication, Physical Computing, and Experiment in Historical Practice.” Canadian Journal of Communication 37, no. 1 (April 2012): 121-128.
  •      - W. J. Turkel. “Hacking History, from Analog to Digital and Back Again.” Rethinking History 15, no. 2 (March 2011): 287-296.

Selected Peer Reviewed Chapters

  •      - (in press) 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.
  •      - (in press) 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.
  •      - (in press) 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. Forthcoming, Routledge, 2018.
  •      - Yana Boeva, Devon Elliott, Edward Jones-Imhotep, Shezan Muhammedi and W. J. Turkel. “Doing History by Reverse Engineering Electronic Devices.” In Making Things and Drawing Boundaries, edited by Jentery Sayers. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
  •      - W. J. Turkel and Ian Milligan. “The Challenge of ‘High-Throughput’ Computational Methods.” From Big Bang to Global Civilization: A Big History Anthology, Volume 2: Education and Understanding: Big History Around the World, edited by Barry Rodrigue, Leonid Grinin and Andrey Korotayev. Delhi, India: Primus Books, 2016.
  •      - Jentery Sayers, Devon Elliott, Kari Krauss, Beth Nowviskie and W. J. Turkel. “Between Bits and Atoms: Physical Computing and Fabrication in the Humanities.” The New Companion to the Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens and John Unsworth. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.
  •      - W. J. Turkel and Devon Elliott. “Making and Playing with Models: Using Rapid Prototyping to Explore the History and Technology of Stage Magic.” Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology, edited by Kevin Kee. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014.


Selected Funding

  •      - 2015-20 - “A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996-2014.” Ian Milligan (applicant) with Nick Ruest and W. J. Turkel
  •      - 2015-19 - “The Golden Age of Cranks: Communication Networks and Heterodox Ideas in 19th-Century North America.” Rob MacDougall (applicant) with W. J. Turkel
  •      - 2013-17 - “Humanities Physical Computing and Fabrication for Cultural Heritage.” Jentery Sayers (applicant) with W. J. Turkel


Awards and Distinctions

  •      - 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)