Ohio University

Victoria Lee

Assistant Professor
Bentley Annex

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  • Ph.D. in History, Princeton University
  • M.A. in History, Princeton University
  • M.Sc. in History of Science, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London
  • B.A. in Physics, University of Cambridge


  • Science and Technology; Modern Period
  • Japan
  • East Asia; Environment; Craft and Political Economy

Victoria Lee is an assistant professor in the History Department. She is a historian of modern science and technology, with a focus on the role of Japan in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her book, The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan (Chicago, forthcoming Fall 2021) looks at Japanese society’s engagement with microbes in science, industry and environmental management. It explores why fermentation expanded beyond small-scale traditional manufactures to take special prominence in food, resources, and medicine, addressing scientists’ and technicians’ role in defining the texture of everyday life and material culture as an aspect of political economy. She is beginning work on a project on concepts of environment in public health.

Before coming to Athens, Lee spent 2014-16 as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is currently a Fellow at the Institut d'études avancées de Paris. Previously she has taught at Rutgers University. She is a native of Toronto, Ontario.


The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming Fall 2021).

“Bioorganic Synthesis,” in Between Making and Knowing: Tools in the History of Materials Research (WSPC Encyclopedia of the Development and History of Materials Science), eds. Joseph D. Martin and Cyrus C. M. Mody (Singapore: World Scientific, 2020), 299-314.

“Scaling Up from the Bench: Fermentation Tank,” in Boxes: A Field Guide, eds. Susanne Bauer, Maria Rentetzi, and Martina Schlünder (Manchester: Mattering Press, 2020), 288-304.

Wild Toxicity, Cultivated Safety: Aflatoxin and Kōji Classification as Knowledge Infrastructure,” History and Technology 35 (2019): 405-424.

Microbial Transformations: The Japanese Domestication of Penicillin Production, 1946-1951,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48 (2018): 441-474. (awarded the Zhu Kezhen Junior Award by the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine)

“The Microbial Production of Expertise in Meiji Japan,” Osiris 2nd Ser. 33 (2018): 171-190.

“Hakkō (kingendai)” (Fermentation, Modern Era), in Kagakushi jiten (Encyclopedia of the History of Chemistry), ed. Kagakushi gakukai (Kyoto: Kagaku dōjin, 2017), 524-525.

“Unraveling the Search for Microbial Control in Twentieth-Century Pandemics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53 (2015): 122-125.

“Mold Cultures: Traditional Industry and Microbial Studies in Early Twentieth-Century Japan,” in New Perspectives on the History of Life Sciences and Agriculture, eds. Denise Phillips and Sharon Kingsland (Cham: Springer, 2015), 231-252.


Professor Lee teaches a variety of courses in the history of science and technology and Japanese history, as well as interdisciplinary courses in the themes initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences. Her courses include:

  • HIST 2905: Technology in World History
  • HIST 3481/5481: Modern Japan
  • HIST 3500: Science and Society in the Modern World
  • HIST 3550: The Age of Darwin, 1800-Present
  • CAS 2405: Knowing What We Know