Curriculum Vitae

Download pdf

Benjamin MacDonald Schmidt

219 Meserve Hall

Northeastern University

360 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA 02118

Academic Appointments

Northeastern University

  • Assistant Professor of History, August 2013–Present.
  • Core Faculty, NuLab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, 2013–Present.
  • Affiliate Faculty, Program in Information Design and Visualization, 2014–Present.

Harvard University, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • Graduate Fellow, Cultural Observatory @ Harvard, 2011–2013.


Princeton University, Ph.D. in History (November 2013)

  • Dissertation: "Paying Attention: The psychological subject in advertising, education, and culture, 1890–1960."
  • Committee: Daniel Rodgers (advisor), Emily Thompson (first reader), Anthony Grafton (second reader), Daniel Cohen (outside reader).

Princeton University, M.A. in History (June 2007)

  • Major field in U.S. History 1865–2000.
  • Minor fields in European intellectual history 1870–2000 and American intellectual and cultural history.

Harvard University, A.B. in Social Studies, magna cum laude (June 2003)

Honors thesis: "Adorno on the Air: Theodor Adorno and the Princeton Radio Research Project." Advisor: Peter Eli Gordon.



"Words Alone: Dismantling Topic Models in the Humanities," Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol 2. No. 1, April 2013.

"Theory First," Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol. 1 No. 1, April 2012.

"Sapping Attention." Blog publishing original research and discussion in digital humanities, data visualization, and text mining. November 2010–present (

"Bookworm," Interactive website, database, and API. (Collaborative work; project co-director.)

Benjamin M. Schmidt and Matthew Chingos, "Ranking Doctoral Programs by Placement: A New Method," PS: Political Science & Politics 40 (July 2007): 523–529.

General Audience

"The Language of the State of the Union," Feature, The Atlantic, January 18, 2015. (With Mitch Fraas).

"Mapping the State of the Union," Feature, The Atlantic, January 18, 2015. (With Mitch Fraas).

"The data shows there’s no real crisis," The New York Times Room For Debate, November 4, 2013.

"The Language of Lincoln," The Atlantic, January 10, 2013.

"The Foreign Language of Mad Men," The Atlantic, March 22, 2012.

"Prochronisms." Blog discussing changes in historical language through the lens of anachronisms in popular culture. March 2012–present (

Invited Talks

"Aggregate Americans: The US Census Bureau, data visualization, 1880-1940." Washington University in St Louis. February 26, 2015.

"Applying a grammar of visualization to millions of texts: the Bookworm project." College of Art, Media, and Design, Northeastern University. November 12, 2014.

"Bookworm: Exploring Massive Textual Collections through Metadata." Yale University Library. May 12, 2014.

"Data-Driven Histories: Reinterpreting Nineteenth-Century Data." Department of History, University of Georgia. April 22, 2014.

"Data narratives and group dynamics in digital history: a case study in ship’s logs." University of Nebraska Digital History symposium and roundtable. April 11, 2014.

"History for the Digital Future: Digital Forms of Historical Scholarship." Friday Workshop Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. University of Michigan. January 31, 2014.

"’Big Data’ across Disciplines, from Cultural Studies to Culturomics." Workshop in History, Culture and Society. Sociology Department, Harvard University. March 27, 2013.

"Unintended Consequences: Digital Reading and the Loci of Cultural Change." Institute for Historical Research, London, UK. March 12, 2013.

"Digital Reading." Digital Humanities and the Americanist Seminar, Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University. January 31, 2013.

"Humanities Research with Digital Libraries." Presentation for ITHAKA S+R and Jstor teams, ITHAKA building, New York City. April 16, 2012.

"A History of Attention." Emily Harvey Foundation, New York City. March 17, 2012.

"Bookworm." Beta Sprint Competition Selection, Digital Public Library of America Plenary Meeting, Washington DC. October 21, 2011.

Workshops and Informal Presentations

An Introduction to Text Analysis for Historians. Digital History Workshop Sessions, Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. New York, January 2, 2015.

Global Literary Networks Work Retreat. Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, University of Chicago. December 4-5, 2014.

Doing Digital History: A Graduate Student Workshop. University of Georgia. April 21, 2014.

Conference Presentations and Papers

"Historical data revisualization: Turner, Walker, and envisioning the frontier." Roundtable on data visualization and historical practice. Annual Meeting of the American History Association, January 3, 2015.

"Bookworm: Building an expressive grammar of humanities text analysis." The Digital Crucible, Dartmouth College. October 7, 2014.

"Why we worry about humanities enrollments." Panel on responses to the American Academy Report on the humanities. National Conference on Public History, Monterey, California. March 2014.

"Transforming Texts into Cartesian Spaces." New Media in American Literary History symposium, Northeastern University. December 2013.

"Open Access in the Digital Humanities." Open Access Week event, Northeastern University. October 22, 2013.

"Reading texts with Big Metadata: the Bookworm platform for digital books, newspapers, and other libraries." Featured Talk, Boston Area Days of DH. March 19, 2013.

"Reading Genres: Exploring Massive Digital Collections From the Top Down." Big Data and Uncertainty in the Humanities, University of Kansas. September 22, 2012.

"Paying Attention: A Case Study in Conceptual History with Millions of Texts." Panel on Digital Approaches to Conceptual History, 15th International Conference on the History of Concepts, Helsinki, Finland. August 24, 2012.

“Drifting Metaphors: Using Digital Libraries to Describe Discursive Change.” Panel on Computational Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Literary History, Conference of the American Literature Association, San Francisco. May 24, 2012.

"Digital Collections and Research Libraries." Invited presentation. Research Libraries in the Digital Age: Needs and Opportunities Conference, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. March 30, 2012.

"A Conversation about Text Mining as a Research Method." Roundtable participant, Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. January 8, 2012.

"Practicing Intellectual History on the Digital Archive." Paper, Modern America Workshop, Princeton University. March 2011.

"The Rise of the American Attention Span, 1890-1935." Paper, Modern America Workshop, Princeton University. March 2010.


Instructor of Record, Northeastern University

"Humanities Data Analysis," Spring 2015. (Graduate)

"The Making of Modern America: The United States, 1877-1945," Fall 2014. (Undergraduate)

"History in the Digital Age," Spring 2014. (Undergraduate)

"Introduction to Digital History," Fall 2013. (Graduate)

"The History of Big Data," Honors Seminar, Fall 2013, Fall 2014. (First-year students)


Visiting Instructor, Digital methods and Conceptual History: International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought. Helsinki University, August 2012.

Preceptor, History 379, History of American Capitalism. Princeton University, Spring 2011.

Preceptor, History 398, Technology in Modern American History. Princeton University, Spring 2010.

Preceptor, History 369, The United States since 1920. Princeton University, Fall 2007.

Guest Lecturer, "The Home Front in World War II," History 369. Princeton University, October 2007.

Guest Lecturer, "Doing Digital Humanities" (Graduate Seminar, Northeastern University, Professor Ryan Cordell). February 20, 2013; October 2014.

Public History and Media


American Whaling exhibits at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. 2014-2015.

Language Consulting

Historical Language Consultant, Masters of Sex, Season 2. Network television show, Showtime. 2014.

Historical Language Consultant, Vegas, Season 1. Network television show, Eye Productions/CBS television. 2012-2013.

TV and Radio Appearances

WBAL, Baltimore, January 20, 2015. Discussing the State of the Union Address.

The Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU Washington DC. Hourlong guest discussing Digital Humanities. February 19, 2013.

On the Media, National Public Radio. Discussing historical fiction and computational changes in language. June 15, 2012.

Lexicon Valley podcast, June 11, 2012.

Weekends with Alex Witt, MSNBC. Discussing Mad Men. March 24, 2012.

Selected Media Coverage

Dewey, Caitlin. “When F-Bombs Went Mainstream, Who Talks about Terrorism, and Other Surprising Cultural Insights from Big Data.” The Washington Post, September 18, 2014.

Hertzberg, Hendrik. “Nobody Said That Then! (Continued).” The New Yorker Blogs, February 25, 2014.

Schuessler, Jennifer. “Quants Ask: What Crisis in the Humanities?” New York Times (online), June 27, 2013, sec. ArtsBeat.


Bookworm Project, $350,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2014-2016). Joint with University of Illinois and Rice University; Northeastern University project lead.

Bookworm Project, $50,000 continuation grant from the Digital Public Library of America (2013). Project developer and grant-writer.

Other Research

Research Assistant, Professor Daniel Rodgers, 2008–2009. Edited and commented on early drafts and performed background research for Age of Fracture.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2003-2005: Research Associate, Humanities Initiative. Created first version of Academy’s Humanities Indicators, a volume of statistics to assist humanities administrators and policymakers in planning; subsequently published online. Collaborated with leaders in national humanities organizations to build stakeholder interest and establish guidelines for Indicators; researched, analyzed, and described statistics in prototype volume.

Research Assistant, Professor Peter Brown, 2011. Created digital maps for Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD.


Service to the Profession

Grant reviewer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2014.

Digital Content Advisor, The American Yawp, Online History Textbook, 2014-.

Participant, Hathi Trust Research Center Un-Camp, September 10-11, 2012.

Invited Participant, Digital Public Library of America Technical Development Meeting, December 2011.

Service to the Department and University

Undergraduate Research Committee, Northeastern University College of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2014.

Faculty Search Committee, Northeastern University, 2014-15.

Graduate Committee, Northeastern University History Department, 2014-.

Participant, Digital Working Group, Harvard History Department, 2013.

Departmental Representative, Princeton Graduate Student Government, 2010–2011.

Treasurer, Princeton Graduate History Association, 2008-2010.

Secretary, Princeton Graduate History Association, 2006-2008.

Director, Modern America Workshop, 2007-2008.

Research Competencies

Computing Platforms:

Substantial experience (could lead workshops): R, Python, Javascript/HTML, MySQL, D3, Unix administration.

Research/collaborative use: HTML/CSS, Haskell, ArcGIS/QGIS, perl, LaTex, JQuery.


Languages: German (intermediate), Spanish (reading), French (reading)