Caltech Home > HSS Home > People > Nicolás Wey Gόmez
open search form

Nicolás Wey Gόmez

Professor of History
Nico Wey-Gomez headshot
Contact information for Nicolás Wey Gόmez
Contact Method Value
Mail Code: MC 101-40
Phone: 626-395-2560
Administrative Assistant:
B.A., Brandeis University, 1986; M.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1987; M.A., 1991; PhD, 1996. Associate Professor, Caltech, 2010; Professor, 2010-.

Research Interests

Early Modern Atlantic History and Literature; History of Exploration, Empire, and Globalization; Spanish Golden Age and Colonial Literatures


Intellectual History; Literature and History; Origins and Foundations of Science; Visual Culture


Nicolás Wey Gόmez studies the history of exploration, empire, and globalization. He specializes in the early modern Atlantic world, combining analysis of literature with the history of science and technology and intellectual history. His research and teaching expand on present understanding of work across disciplines and the knowledge systems that inform a broad range of texts from antiquity to the early modern period.

Wey Gómez's work on the Atlantic examines the assumptions underlying the letters, chronicles, histories, and cosmographies that document Europe's encounter with the Americas in the wake of Columbus's discoveries. He focuses on early portrayals of native peoples by Europeans, particularly on the role of scientific and technical knowledge in the production of New World anthropology and in early legal justifications for European expansionism around the globe.

His research aims to observe the questions, constraints, and methodologies governing a broad range of disciplines today, such as classics, cultural anthropology, critical geography, history of science and technology, intellectual history, literature, and philosophy. In this line of work, Wey Gómez has ultimately sought to outline the complex epistemic system that underwrote imperialism as theory and practice in early modernity.
Wey Gómez's first book, The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies, aimed at redefining the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas as part of Mediterranean Europe's problematic reawakening to the natural and human resources of the belt of the tropics. He is currently working on The Machine of the World: Science and Human Rights in the Age of Empire, studying the interrelated developments of natural history, anthropology, and humanitarian advocacy in the early modern Hispanic world. He is also preparing a history of imperialism in the Age of Exploration titled Latitude: How Europe Invented the Global South.

Before joining Caltech in 2010, he was on the faculty at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the spring of 2010, he was a visiting associate professor of the history of science at Harvard University.

Selected Publications

The Tropics of Empire. Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies. Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology. Ed. Jed. Z. Buchwald. Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press, 2008. xxiv + 592 pp. + 46 figs.
Aristotle and the American Tropics: The Politics of Place in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo's Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias (1526). [Under review].
The Great World-Machine: The Discovery of America, the Revolution of the Orbs, and the Rise of Empire in the Tropics / La gran máquina del mundo: El descubrimiento de América, la revolución de los orbes, y el imperio en los trópicos. In Machina / Medium / Apparatus. Ed. Karla Jasso and Anna More. Ciudad de Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana; INBA-CONACULTA. [Forthcoming].
Memorias de la zona tórrida: naturalismo clásico y tropicalidad en el Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias (1526) de Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo. [Forthcoming: Revista de Indias (C.S.I. C.)].
Los trópicos del imperio: Cristóbal Colón y el sur en la empresa de las Indias. In La pluma es la lengua del alma: Ensayos en honor de E. Michael Gerli (The Pen is the Soul's Tongue: Studies in Honor of E. Michael Gerli). Ed. José Manuel Hidalgo. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 2011.
The Politics of Light: Al-KindÄ«'s Optics and the Vindication of the American Tropics in Bartolomé de las Casas's Apologética historia sumaria (1527-1561). In Early Modern Eyes, ed. Walter Melion and Lee Palmer Wandel, pp. 11-54. Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture. Ed. K. A. E. Enenkel. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
A Poetics of Dismemberment: The Book of Job and the Cannibals of Cariay in Columbus's Account of the Fourth Voyage. Colonial Latin American Review 16.1 (2007): 109-123.
The Jealous and the Curious: Freud, Paranoia, and Homosexuality in Cervantes's Poetics. In Cervantes and His Postmodern Constituencies,ed.A. J. Cruz and C. B. Johnson, 170-198. Hispanic Issues. Ed. Nicholas Spadaccini. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000.
Anselmo's Eating Disorder (I.33-35) In Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote, ed. Diana de Armas Wilson, 814-821. A volume of the Norton Critical Editions. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1999.
"Nuestro Padre el Sol": Scholastic Cosmology and the Cult of the Sun in Inca Garcilaso's Comentarios reales. Latin American Literary Review 26.52 (1998): 19-26. Special issue on Colonial Studies. Guest Editor Verónica Salles-Reese.                                                   
Cannibalism as Defacement: Columbus's Account of the Fourth Voyage. Journal of Hispanic Philology 16.2 (1992): 195-208.
¿Dónde está Garcilaso? La oscilación del sujeto en la formación de un discurso transcultural (Where is Garcilaso? The self's displacement in the formation of a transcultural discourse). Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana 34 (1991): 7-31.