|Name Linnda Caporael|
Linnda Caporael is a professor at the Science and Technology Studies Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
- Educational background
- Contribution to Historiography of Salem Witch Trials
- Published works
Linnda R. Caporael is a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the department of Technical Studies and Science. She received her PhD in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and she also studied human ethology at the Institute of Child Development at the University of London. She is a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar and a visiting scientist in the Dept. of Invertebrate Paleontology and in the Dept. of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. She researches culture from a biological persepective and biology from a cultural perspective.
Contribution to Historiography of Salem Witch Trials
In April 1976, Caporael debuted a new theory to the historiography of the Salem Witch Trials, when she proposed that they were caused due to an outbreak of ergotism. Ergotism is a disease that results from eating rye bread that has been contaminated by the fungus, ergot. Her evidence for this theory include, growing conditions, localization, and symptoms. Ergot can cause hallucinations, crawling sensations in skin, tingling in fingers, headaches, and vomiting. According to Caporael, many of these symptoms match up with the symptoms of the victims in Salem. In December, 1976, psychologists, Nicholas P. Spanos and Jack Gottlieb, refuted Caporael's theory by arguing that there was no evidence for symptoms of convulsive ergotism in Salem and no evidence that the growing conditions were prime for ergot. In 1982, historian, Mary Matossian, defended Caporael's theory by restating that the weather conditions were prime for growing ergot and that the symptoms of ergot matched the symptoms of the victims. A year later in 1983, Nicholas Spanos challenged Matossian saying that her information was misleading, irrelevant, and incorrect.. He challenged Matossian's defense of Caporael's theory and defended his original rebuttal. Linnda Caporael's ergotism theory sparked a massive debate and is still discussed in articles today.
Caporael is interested and has studied the following topics: