Catherine Newell

Asst. Professor

(305) 284-3733
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Catherine L. Newell is a scholar of the conjoined histories of religion and science (specifically technology, ecology, and medicine). She is particularly interested in how scientific paradigms frequently owe their genesis to a religious idea or spiritual belief. Her first book, titled Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and the Final Frontier (forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press), traces post-World War II American zeal for space exploration back to 19th-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, and considers the future of space exploration in light of these popularizers’ insights into the uniqueness and fragility of our own planet.

Her most recent work examines “food faiths”: individuals in contemporary society who use scientific concepts about food and diet as the basis for a spiritual practice. To research this project, Dr. Newell spent several months as the David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the John W. Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. In addition to this current book project, she has published articles and book chapters on dystopic science fiction and nature religion; the spiritual origins of vegetarianism in America; and how Biblical injunctions to “rule over the Earth” still inflect debates about environmental science and management in the 21st-century.

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 362, Religion and Science Fiction; REL 360, Religion and Bioethics; and REL 406, Religion, Nature, and Ecology. She is also the program director for the Da Vinci Scholars Program and advisor for the Medical Humanities minor.


LIST OF SPECIALTIES: 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

Professional Experience

- Advisor , Medical Humanities minor
- Director, the da Vinci Program.