Catherine L. Newell, Ph.D.


Ashe 508
Office hours: T/W/Th 2-3 pm and by appointment

Catherine L. Newell is a scholar of both the phenomenology of religion and the history of science. Her research focuses on the conjoined histories of religion and science, technology, and medicine; she is particularly interested in how scientific paradigms frequently owe their genesis to a religious idea or spiritual belief.

Her first book, tentatively titled Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and America's Final Frontier (forthcoming from University of Pittsburgh Press), traces post-World War II American zeal for space exploration back to nineteenth-century religious discourse surrounding belief in American manifest destiny. The volume focuses on the artists, historians, and scientists who popularized space exploration by framing the conquest of the “final frontier” as a modern religio-cultural legacy of the conquest of the American West. Her most recent work examines the way in which individuals in contemporary society use scientific concepts about food and diet as the basis for a spiritual practice. Research for her second book was conducted while she served as the David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the Library of Congress in 2017.

Dr. Newell’s courses integrate the histories of religion, science, ecology, technology, and popular culture. Course offerings include REL 161, Religion and Medicine: Health Care as a Spiritual Practice; REL 250, Spiritual, Not Religious; REL 360, Religion and Bioethics; REL 362, Religion and Science Fiction; and REL 406, Religion, Nature, and Ecology. She is also the advisor for the Medical Humanities minor and the director of the da Vinci Program.

Course Offerings in Fall 2018:

REL 161 - Religion and Medicine: Health Care as Spiritual Practice 

REL 360 - Religion and Bioethics