William J. Turkel

- Professor
- Research Chair - Department of History

image of William J. Turkel
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2004
Email: wturkel@uwo.ca
Office: Lawson Hall 2267
Office Hours via Zoom: By Appointment

Research and Teaching

My research involves computational history, big history, and science and technology studies (STS) with a focus on methods. Two of my new projects focus specifically on (1) electronics, sound and esoterica in modular synthesis; and (2) a disability studies / disability history approach to astrobiology and security studies.

In my work, I often use historical experimentation and reverse engineering to create material objects, typically drawing on mechanical design, 3D printing, and electronics or minimal computing. I teach undergraduate courses on global 21st century history (History 3823G), structured intelligence analysis and the history of espionage (History 4821F) and digital research methods (History 4816A/B). In 2021-22 I taught the International Relations capstone course (IR 4703F) on decolonizing disability.

I am the author of Spark from the Deep (JHU 2013) and The Archive of Place (UBC 2007), and am a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (2018-25).

Current graduate students include Uesio da Gama Santos and Blake Butler. Past graduate students I have worked with include Adam Crymble, Jennifer Bonnell, Devon Elliott, Jennifer Hambleton, Tristan Johnson, Jeffrey Lupker, Kimberley Martin, Shezan Muhammedi and Rebecca Woods. Ian Milligan and Daniel Rueck are former postdocs. I am happy to discuss research opportunities with potential students and collaborators any time.

There is a lot more information about my work on my personal webpage and my open source code is on GitHub.

Selected Publications


  • W. J. Turkel. Spark from the Deep: How Shocking Experiments with Strongly Electric Fish Powered Scientific Discovery. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  • W. J. Turkel. The Archive of Place: Unearthing the Pasts of the Chilcotin Plateau. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.


  • Alan MacEachern and W. J. Turkel, eds. Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental History. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2008.

 Open Access Textbooks

  •  W. J. Turkel. Digital Research Methods with Mathematica, 2nd rev. ed. 2020.

 Selected Peer Reviewed Articles and Chapters

  • Jeffrey A. T. Lupker and W. J. Turkel. “Music Theory, the Missing Link Between Music-Related Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, special issue on Audiovisual DH (In Press, 2020).
  • Jeffrey A. T. Lupker and W. J. Turkel. “Observing Mood Based Patterns and Commonalities in Music.” Innovation in Music (2019 edition), edited by Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Justin Paterson, and Rob Toulson. (In Press, Taylor and Francis, 2020).
  • Niels Brügger, Ian Milligan, Anat Ben-David, Sophie Gebeil, Federico Nanni, Richard Rogers, William J. Turkel, Matthew Weber and Peter Webster. “Internet Histories and Computational Methods: A ‘Round-Doc’ Discussion.” Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society (2019). 
  • W. J. Turkel and Edward Jones-Imhotep. “Sensors and Sources: How a Universal Model of Instrumentation Affects Our Experiences of the Past.” Varieties of Historical Experience, edited by Charles Stewart and Stephan Palmie. Routledge, 2019.
  • Edward Jones-Imhotep and W. J. Turkel. “The Analog Archive: Image-Mining the History of Electronics.” Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.
  • Devon Elliott and W. J. Turkel. “Faster than the Eye: Using Computer Vision to Explore Sources in the History of Stage Magic.” Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee and Timothy Compeau. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.

 Recent Conference Presentations

  • F. Michael Bartlett and W. J. Turkel. "Automatically Harvesting High-Quality Images of Historic Bridges," Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2021. 
  • Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. "Using Dimensionality Reduction and Tag Parameter Spaces to Study Historical Change in a Large Document Archive," Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2021.
  • Tim Hitchcock and W. J. Turkel. "Studying the Historical Emergence of Manslaughter in English Law using Stable Random Projections and Tag Parameter Spaces," Association for Computers and the Humanities, 2021.
  • F. Michael Bartlett and W. J. Turkel. “Digital Analysis of Historic Bridge Images.” Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT 25), 2020.
  • W. J. Turkel. “Text and Image Mining for Historical Research.” Wolfram Technology Conference, 2020.
  • W. J. Turkel and Zain Sirohey. “A Comparison of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Recognizing Component Assemblies in Image Mining Electronic Circuits,” Canadian Society of Digital Humanities, 2020.

 Awards and Distinctions

  • Western Award for Innovations in Technology-Enhanced Teaching, 2021.
  • 2004-14 - Project Director of Digital Infrastructure, NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment/ Nouvelle initiative canadienne en histoire de l'environnement (SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster)