Curriculum Vitae

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Benjamin MacDonald Schmidt

219 Meserve Hall

Northeastern University

360 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA 02118

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor of History and core faculty, NuLab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, Northeastern University, August 2013–Present.

Graduate Fellow, Cultural Observatory @ Harvard, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, 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.”



“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, Cultural Observatory @ Harvard.)

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 data shows there’s no real crisis,” The New York Times, 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


Workshop on Digital History, University of Georgia, April 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 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.

Conference Presentations and Papers

“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.

“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, panel on collaboration. 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.

Panel Discussions

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


Primary Instructor

“History in the Digital Age,” Northeastern University, Spring 2013

“Introduction to Digital History,” Northeastern University Graduate Seminar, Fall 2013

“The History of Big Data,” Freshman Honors Seminar, Northeastern University Fall 2013


Guest Lecturer, “Doing Digital Humanities” (Graduate Seminar, Northeastern University, Professor Ryan Cordell). February 20, 2013.

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.

“The Home Front in World War II,” guest lecture, History 369. Princeton University, October 2007.

Public History and Media

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

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

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.

Fellowships and Awards

Visiting Graduate Fellow, Cultural Observatory @ Harvard, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 2011–2013.

Full Research Fellowship, Princeton University, 2005–2011.

Shelby Cullom Davis Merit Scholarship, Princeton University, 2005–2010.

Mill-Taylor Prize for best undergraduate paper in Social Studies at Harvard College, 2001.


Bookworm Project, $50,000 continuation grant from the Digital Public Library of America. 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.

Professional Service

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

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

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

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 Abilities

Computer Platforms: R, MySQL, Python, Perl, LaTeX, Javascript/HTML, D3, ArcGIS, Unix administration.

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