Francesca Rochberg

VRS 2013-14

Francesca Rochberg received a B.A. in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and the Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. She is a member of the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has published widely on Babylonian celestial sciences and produced editions of cuneiform texts that set Babylonian science in various contexts, from cultural to cognitive history. Her research on ancient Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman traditions in astronomy and astrology has introduced the evidence of ancient cuneiform science into the philosophy of science through investigations of empiricism, prediction, logic, and reasoning.  She is the author of Aspects of Babylonian Celestial Divination: The Lunar Eclipse Tablets of Enūma Anu Enlil, Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 22(Horn: Ferdinand Berger und Söhne, 1988), Babylonian Horoscopes, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol.88, Pt.1 (American Philosophical Society, 1998), The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (Cambridge UP, 2004, paperback edition 2007), and In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacy, Studies in Ancient Magic and Divination (E.J. Brill, 2010).

While at ISAW her research project "Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science," concerns the conundrum of a scientific knowledge and practice whose goal is not the knowledge or understanding of nature. A sense of nature in our terms was not a factor in cuneiform sources bearing on the understanding of phenomena, and yet the cuneiform world engaged in activities manifestly kindred with science in its engagement with and understanding of phenomena. How, then, to understand cuneiform science in the absence of an idea of nature, is the goal of the project.