William Turkel named to College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists

September 12, 2018

Bill Turkel named to College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists

Photo by Paul Mayne

William Turkel, Professor in the Department of History has been named a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Turkel is internationally recognized for his innovative work in digital history. He uses machine learning, text mining and computational techniques in his study of the histories of science, technology and environment, drawing on many decades of programming experience.

Turkel’s recent work focuses on global 21st-century history. For Turkel, the massive amount of information and evidence available requires new approaches to gathering historical evidence.

“As historians engage with the global history of the 21st century, we will increasingly need computational tools that help us to monitor historical consciousness in real time. I have been working on methods for the monitoring and mining of large-scale collective memory,” said Turkel. “Since sources are 'born digital' at a rate that far exceeds our capacity to read and reflect on them, historians, humanists and social scientists need to adapt algorithms that can deal with 'firehoses' of source material.”

For Turkel, the use of digital technologies in the study of history is natural and necessary.

“At this point, there is not really an alternative. Every historian uses email to communicate with colleagues, submits word processed manuscripts to journals and publishers, uses databases and search engines, and deals with a largely digital secondary literature,” he said. “For the most part, however, those tools were not developed specifically for the historical enterprise. New methods and tools can be.”

Those named to the College represent the emerging generation of scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada.

Together, the members of the College will address issues of particular concern to new scholars, artists and scientists, for the advancement of understanding and the benefit of society, taking advantage of the interdisciplinary approaches fostered by the establishment of the College.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be elected to the College, not to mention a bit humbling. I am really looking forward to meeting the other members and learning about their work,” Turkel said. “I hope to participate in new collaborative and interdisciplinary projects that could be of benefit to Canadians as they negotiate the challenges of a rapidly changing digital world.”

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, created in 2014, is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership. Up to 100 Members may be elected each year and membership is for seven years.

Other Faculty members previously named to the College include: