Dr. Stafford received her BA from Northwestern University majoring in Continental Philosophy and Comparative Literature. She also spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris studying Plato with Jean Wahl, Aesthetics with Philippe Souriau, and Victor Hugo with Charles Dedeyan.

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She returned to Northwestern for her MA in Art History--finding Philosophy not enfleshed enough--and went on to receive her Ph.D from the University of Chicago. The most momentous event of her doctoral studies was receiving a fellowship from the American Association of University Women enabling her to study at the Warburg Institute in London where she discovered her thesis advisor, Ernst Gombrich.
For the past 20 years, she taught at the University of Chicago and for the last decade held a University Chair.
An avowed imagist, her writing focusses on the history and theory of imaging and visualization modalities from the early modern to the digital era. Her books, in various ways, reveal the deep intersections connecting the arts, sciences, and optical technologies to one another: Geography/Geology/ Mineralogy [ featured in Voyage into Substance]; Anatomy and the Life Sciences [Body Criticism] ; Neuroscience and Cognitive Science [Echo Objects]. She also writes historically-grounded manifestos on the vital significance of the Visual and Sensory Arts to general education as well as to society at large ( Artful Science; Good Looking].

She likes to touch the earth without gloves. That is, in addition to authoring catalogues, Barbara embodies her ideas in exhibitions, such as the monumental Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen Show held at the Getty Museum (2001/2002). She also helps program-build.

Current projects include efforts to establish a laboratory/studio-based Ph.D tying together the Neurosciences with Humanities/ Social Sciences-based Imaging. [SUNY/ Buffalo] Other types of innovative programs would hopefully lead to the reconceptualization of Design Studies, both here and abroad, as Pattern-Recognition. Yet another project involves the completion of a collaborative book, A Field Guide to a New Metafield: Bridging the Humanities-Neurosciences Divide [forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press]. This volume results from the invitation to be Templeton Fellow at USC, Los Angeles, in 2008. Stafford was a Distinguished University Visiting Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology from 2010-2012.

In her spare time, Barbara loves all forms of music [opera, symphony, Jazz, Blues], contemporary poetry, hiking, treasure-hunting in flea markets, and dancing whenever possible. She still yearns for romantic travel.


National College of Education 1969-70, 1971-72 Assistant Professor
Loyola University, Chicago 1972-73 Assistant Professor
University of Delaware 1973-81 Assistant and Associate Professor
University of Chicago 1981-2010 Professor;
1995-2010 William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor
2007-2010 William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor, Emerita
Georgia Institute of Technology 2010-2012 Distinguished University Visiting Professor
University of Melbourne 2009 Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship


Honorary Degrees

Maryland Institute, College of Art: 1996

Grand Valley State University, Michigan: 1998

University of Warwick, England: 2010

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Teaching Honors

University of Delaware Excellence-in-Teaching Award: 1976

Recognized by the American Society for 18th Century Studies as a Distinguished Teacher and Scholar: 2001

Society of Fellows, The University of Chicago: 2001-2007

National Grants & Honors

Scholar, Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities 1995-96
MacGeorge Fellow, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Australia 2003
Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 2005/2006
Templeton Research Fellow, Creativity: An Inquiry into the Nature of Innovation in Science, Art, Philosophy, and Religion, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. 2008
Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts for Echo Objects: the Cognitive Work of Images. 2008
Thomas N. Bonner Award recognizing Echo Objects: the Cognitive Work of Images as "the best recent book in English on the Theory and Practice of the Liberal Arts" from the Academy of Scholars, located at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 2008
Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Humanities Center, Suny Buffalo 2009




Author's Overview | Booklist | Translations | Exhibitions / catalogues | Edited volumes


2004 on | 1995-2003 | 1972-1994

Lectures / Critiques

2011 - 2004 | 1999-2003

Professional Services

Professional Associations

Alexander von Humboldt Association of America

American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies

British Association for Eighteenth-Century Studies

College Art Association

History of Science Society

Societé française de l'histoire de la dermatologie

Societé de l'histoire d'art français

Society of Architectural Historians

Society for Science, Literature, Society, and Art

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Elected or Appointed Office; National Committees; Advisory Committees

Peter Lang Publishing for the series on "Nature, Science, and the Arts.

Member, Folger Library Jubilee Readers Committee (19999 -2004)

Member of the Advisory Committee to the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1985--2000

Elected Member-at-Large of the Executive Board of the International Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS)

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies: Second Vice-President (1993-1994), Vice-President (1994-1995), President (1995-1996)

Member of the Board of Directors of the College Art Association, 1996
Advisory and Grants Board, The Camargo Foundation, 1999-2004.

International Scientific Advisory Board, Hannover Expo 2000 (The World's Fair for the Millennium: Sections on the Future of the Past and Visions of The 21st Century)

Advisor, Visual Rhetorics Project, Calvin College (Three-year NEH funded cross Disciplinary course development project)
Chicago Round Table on the Year 2000

Advisory Board Member of American Board of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Book Reviews, 2000

Advisor for Henry Art Gallery (Portland OR) project "Better Living Through Science: Contemporary Art and Human Genomics," October 2000.

Member, Advisory Board of the ASECS Book Reviews, Online project, 2000.

National Academy of Science / National Research Council, Study Project, "Information Technology and Creativity", June 2000 - December 2001,Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (Project CSTB-L-99-11A) <>

Planning Committee for the Congress to be held by the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies at UCLA in 2003.

Member of Advisory Board, to form a new museum of the ancien Cabinet de Medailles at the Bibliotheque Nationale (Richelieu Building), Paris, France, 2004-

Exhibit and Program Advisory Committee, Body Worlds: An Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, Gunther von Hagens, Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, February 2005.

Review Committee on Humanities, Technology and Art/Design for the 21st Century at the University of California, Berkeley (2003).

Resource Board for "Light and Mind," a five-part documentary series for PBS Television (2004 - )
Zeitschrift fuer Ideengeschichte, Advisory Board

Advisory Board for re: place [Refresh/ New Media] 2007: The Second International Conference on the Histories of Media Arts, Sciences and Technologies, Berlin October 4-7, 2007

Member, Advisory Commitee, The Species of Origin Project [Charles Darwin Bi-Centennial/2008], University of Edinburgh

Member of the Scientific Committee, Consciousness Reframed: New Realities: Being Syncretic, The Planetary Collegium's IXth International Research Conference, Vienna, Austria, 3-5 July 2008

Member of Evolution Advisory Committee, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. to advise on forthcoming on-line Symposium, Evolution and Visual Culture, March 2010.

Editorial Boards

Advisory Board of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies

Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology

Design Issues: A Journal of History, Theory, and Criticism

European Romantic Review

Intellect (Bristol, U.K.)

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment

The Semiotic Web

Symbolism: An International Journal of Critical Aesthetics

Technoetic Arts: an international journal of speculative research

Visio: International Journal for Visual Semiotics

Word and Image

School of Liberal Arts Advisory Board at Savannah College of Art and Design



Dawna Schuld "Nothing to Look at: Art as Situation and its Neuropsychological Implications." 2009.

Mary Holahan, "Althea Gyles and the Celtic Revival" (Registrar, Museum of Art, Wilmington, DE)

Paul Schweizer, "The Rainbow and the Iconography of Hope on English Romantic Landscaping" (Director, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY)

Mary Sheriff, "Fragonard's Fantasy Portraits in Relation to French Academic Theory" (Professor, University of North Carolina)

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Brian Lukacher, "The Projects and Architectural Theory of Thomas Gandy" (Associate Professor, Smith College)

Christopher Johns, "The Patronage of Clement XI and the Paleo-Christian Revival" (Norman L. and Roselea Goldberg Chair of Art and Art History, Vanderbilt University).

Erin Blake, "Zograscopes, perspective prints, and the mapping of polite space in mid-eighteenth-century England", 2000, (Stanford University; BMS served as co-mentor) (Curator of Graphic Materials, Folger Library, Washington, DC)

Anna Sigridur Arnar , "Livre d'artiste, Critical Instrument, Performance: Stéphane Mallarmé and the Book." (with honors), June 2000, (Assistant Professor, Moorhead State University, MN )

Mark Hinchman, "African Rococo: Houses and Portraits in the Eighteenth-Century Senegal", August 2000, (Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln)

Katherine Haskins, "Informing Modernity: The Art Press and Art Reading in Early Victorian England 1830-1850" (with honors), December 2001, (Director of the Arts Library, Yale University).

Craig Ashley Hanson, "Embodying Erudition: English Art, Medicine and Antiquarianism in the Age of Empiricism" (with honors), December 2003.

Elizabeth Liebman, "Painting Natures: Buffon and the Art of the Histoire Naturelle", December 2003.

Nancy Nield Buchwald, "Anxious Embodiments: Revenants of American Jewish Masculinities in Barnett Newman's Stations of the Cross", March 2004.

Jessica Buben, "E=mc2: Image Equivalency and Pop-Metaphysics. The Pictorial as Discourse in the Atomic Age", June 2005, (Committee on the History of Culture).

Selected Recent Courses


Perspectives on Imaging.


Ancients and Moderns in 18th Century Art Theory.

Strange Shadows: Four Painters in Search of the Invisible


Neuronal Aesthetics (Winter 2003): a cross disciplinary seminar integrating key problems in image history with cognitive science, neuro- and evolutionary biology, and the new philosophy of mind.

Visual Pragmatism.

Analogy: Esthetics, Rhetoric, Neurobiology.

Directed Sawyer Seminar: Computation in the Humanities.