Phone Number
Email Address
Palmer E 227
Ace 116
Office / Division / Concentration
Health, Culture and Societies


Ph.D., Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
SCAN Graduate Student Certificate in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Center for Neuroscience & Society, University of Pennsylvania
M.A., Institute of Philosophy and the History of Literature, Science, and Technology, Technical University of Berlin
B.Sc., Institute of Mathematics, Free University of Berlin

My passion is to unravel epistemological and ethical implications of scientific and medical classification systems. I focus on the psy- and neuro-disciplines in English-, German-, and French-speaking countries from the 19th century to the present. My current research project, tentatively titled Unruly Quantification: Making Up Minds and Brains With Scales, Scores, and Statistical Methods, historicizes technologies of quantification and digitization on which researchers and clinicians rely to assess human brains and minds. Unruly Quantification will illuminate the ways in which quantifying tools have impacted our understanding of brains, minds, and selves. I also ask whether (and, if so, how) the increasing reliance on big data has impacted access to care for minoritized populations and changed public understandings of humans as individuals and/or as representatives of specific gendered, sex(ualiz)ed, and racialized groups. The project will result in traditional written outputs as well as digital products, including an interactive map tracing the travel of quantifying technologies across time, space, and disciplinary boundaries. My hope is that such a map will provide opportunity to engage non-academic audiences in conversations about epistemic colonialism.

I am also working on a book manuscript examining the ways in which definitions of manual preference have shaped research on the brain and mind since the 1860s. The current working title is A Left-Handed History of Neuro-Centrisms.

Recent Courses

Big Brain Data: Histories and Ethics, Spring 2022
Biomedical Ethics, Spring 2022
A History of Biomedicine, Fall 2021, Fall 2019
Broken Brains, Broken Souls: Patient Experiences in Neurology and Psychiatry since 1800, Fall 2021, Fall 2019
Race, Gender, and Sex(uality) in the History of the Mind and Brain Sciences, Spring 2021
Medicine and Literature (co-instructor), Fall 2020
Neuroethics, Fall 2020
Here’s My Number: Quantifying Human Bodies, Identities, and Behaviors Since 1800, Spring 2020
The Mystery of Lefty Brains: An Introduction to Digital Text Analysis and the History of Handedness Research, Spring 2020
Substance Use and Harm Reduction: Then, Now, and for a Better Future, Spring 2020
Politics of Yellow Fever in Alexander Hamilton’s America (co-instructor), January interterm 2020


Selected Publications

Cornel, Tabea. “Contested Numbers: The Failed Negotiation of Objective Statistics in a Methodological Review of Kinsey et al.’s Sex Research.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43, no. 1 (2021): 13.

Cornel, Tabea. “An Even-Handed Debate? The Sexed/Gendered Controversy over Laterality Genes in British Psychology, 1970s–1990s.” History of the Human Sciences 33, no. 5 (2020): 138–66.

Cornel, Tabea. “Something Old, Something New, Something Pseudo, Something True: Pejorative and Deferential References to Phrenology Since 1840.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 161, no. 4 (2017): 299–332.

Cornel, Tabea. “Matters of Sex and Gender in F.J. Gall’s Organology: A Primary Approach.” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 23, no. 4 (2014): 377–94.