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Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

IU's new Catapult initiative facilitates research and education in the digital humanities

Workshop series in digital humanities training begins Sept. 24

Sept. 18, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington recently launched Catapult, a new center for encouraging research and education in the area of digital humanities.

The Catapult Center, directed by William R. Newman, Distinguished Professor and Ruth N. Halls Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, will bring together a network of scholars from IU and the outside world in the rapidly expanding fields of digital editing, computational analysis of texts and material analysis of textual collections.

Proton beam used on Galileo's writings

Scientists use proton-beam analysis to help date some of Galileo's scientific writings -- one example of the new technologies at work in the digital humanities.

Print-Quality Photo

With the aid of Assistant Director Wallace Hooper, also a historian of science, Newman is building a center where scholars in disciplines such as computational linguistics, history, English, French and Italian literatures, classical and non-European languages, anthropology, statistics, mathematics, philosophy, and materials science are encouraged to interact and share their research.

"IU is already a leader in digital humanities, but up until now there has been no concerted effort to provide a clearinghouse where scholars in diverse fields can collaborate," Newman said.

But research is only part of the story. Catapult will also host a workshop series taught by members of the IU community that will provide faculty and graduate students with hands-on training in various aspects of the digital humanities. The first of these workshops will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Sept. 24, in Wells Library Room E174. The event is open to IU faculty and graduate students.

Beginning this fall, Catapult Center will also sponsor a colloquium series where prominent figures in these areas will present their work to the university community.

For nearly a decade, Newman's own work has focused on the Chymistry of Isaac Newton project. The project combines a digital edition of the famous scientist's alchemical works with analytical tools derived from computational linguistics, alongside laboratory replication of Newton's chemical experiments, carried out with the aid of the College's Department of Chemistry. The project aims to decipher Newton's alchemical work and explore its connections with his more famous discoveries in physical science.

"The Chymistry project exemplifies the advantages to be gained from interdisciplinarity between the humanities and sciences, a goal that Catapult aims to implement over a broader domain of research," Newman said.

For further information, contact Newman at