Simon Baatz

Simon Baatz

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NB 8.65.09


  • Ph.D.  -  University of Pennsylvania (History and Sociology of Science)
  • A.M.   -  University of Pennsylvania (History and Sociology of Science)
  • M.Sc. -   Imperial College London (History of Science)
  • B.A.   -    University of York (Physics/Philosophy)





Simon Baatz taught American Studies at universities in Britain before taking up a research position in 2000 in the history of medicine at the National Institutes of Health.  He subsequently taught at George Mason University as an associate professor of history.  The Girl on the Velvet Swing, his latest book, was published in 2018 by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown & Co.  Most recently, during 2021, he was appointed Fellow-in-Residence at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford. 



No American city has had a more lurid criminal history than New York.  Crime in all its varieties has flourished at all times and in all districts, encompassing every economic and social class in the city; but never was it more ubiquitous than in the decades from 188o to 1930.   New York was fast developing as a center of industrialization, as a railroad transportation hub, and as the major port on the East coast; and the extent of its criminal activity kept pace with the city's development.  Our website, Tales from the Criminal Court, presents transcripts of criminal trials in the Court of General Sessions during the decades when New York transformed itself into the financial, industrial, and cultural center of the United States.  This website, created at John Jay College, shows New Yorkers at their worst -- on trial for murder, manslaughter, extortion, burglary, assault, rape, forgery, bigamy, and larceny -- but it presents also a fascinating picture of immigrants and native-born alike struggling, against the odds, to make their way in the world by fair means or foul.



Knowledge, Culture, and Science in the Metropolis: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1817-2017,  303 pp. (Wiley)   "An elegantly written history of one of the nation's oldest and most distinguished institutions . . . A fascinating interpretation of social and cultural change in New York City."     Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences, Columbia University

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago,  541 pp.  (HarperCollins)    "An absorbing history . . . Mr. Baatz has done meticulous research and he writes extremely well. . .  He brings to vivid life the major characters [and] gives us a picture of the crime-ridden, bootleg-liquor-fueled Jazz Age city of Chicago . . .  A page-turner of a book."            John Steele Gordon, "Murder Most Rational and Confounding," New York Times, August 17, 2008 

The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century,  392 pp. (Little, Brown)   "A terrifically entertaining work of popular history: swiftly paced, richly evocative, engrossing from the first page. . . . This vivid retelling of the 1906 murder of Stanford White couldn't be timelier. . . . The murder of Stanford White has been the subject of many other books [but] Baatz's gripping, deeply researched retelling is certain to stand as the definitive version."              Harold Schechter, "The Architect, the Madman and 'The Girl on the Velvet Swing'," Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2018 

'Venerate the Plough': A History of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1785-1985, 124 pp. (PSPA)  "This bicentennial volume is the first comprehensive account of [the Society's] history . . . The book's virtues include comparisons between the Philadelphia Society and similar organizations; . . . It is an engaging vignette of Philadelphia history."  Donald B. Marti, Agricultural History, Professor Emeritus of History, Indiana University



The University of Pennsylvania has had a worldwide reputation for research and teaching in the history of science for more than fifty years, since the creation of its department in 1970.  Almost all universities had previously taught the history of science as intellectual history, the history of ideas, a subject divorced from its social context; but the Penn faculty insisted from the outset that science could only be properly understood as a cultural phenomenon, shaped by the society that endows science with meaning and value.  This biographical fragment, written in connection with the fiftieth anniversary, traces the early years and subsequent development of the Penn program.