Elizabeth Kessler’s research and teaching focus on twentieth and twenty-first century American visual culture. Her diverse interests include: the role of aesthetics, visual culture, and media in modern and contemporary science, especially astronomy; the interchange between technology and ways of seeing and representing; the history of photography; and the representation of fashion in different media. Her first book, Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime, on the aesthetics of deep space images, was published in 2012. She’s currently writing on book on extraterrestrial time capsules, as well as developing a new project on fashion photography.

Academic Appointments

  • Lecturer, American Studies

Additional Program Affiliations

  • Modern Thought and Literature

Professional Education

  • BA, University of Notre Dame, English
  • MA, University of Illinois, Chicago, Art History
  • PhD, University of Chicago, History of Culture

2023-24 Courses

All Publications

  • Everyday Fashion in Found Photographs: American Women of the Late 19th Century (Book Review) DRESS-THE JOURNAL OF THE COSTUME SOCIETY OF AMERICA Book Review Authored by: Kessler, E. A., Hodgkins, L. 2023
  • How do the James Webb Space Telescope's cosmic views represent what we cannot see? APERTURE Kessler, E. A. 2023: 11-12
  • Life in Space: NASA Life Sciences Research during the Late Twentieth Century (Book Review) ISIS Book Review Authored by: Kessler, E. A. 2023; 114 (2): 464-465

    View details for DOI 10.1086/724878

    View details for Web of Science ID 001036401000048

  • The Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration: History, Philosophy, and Culture GALAXIES Galison, P., Doboszewski, J., Elder, J., Martens, N. M., Ashtekar, A., Enander, J., Gueguen, M., Kessler, E. A., Lalli, R., Lesourd, M., Marcoci, A., Ramirez, S., Natarajan, P., Nguyen, J., Reyes-Galindo, L., Ritson, S., Schneider, M. D., Skulberg, E., Sorgner, H., Stanley, M., Thresher, A. C., Van Dongen, J., Weatherall, J., Wu, J., Wuethrich, A. 2023; 11 (1)
  • More to Search Than Time Allows The Heart's Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto Kessler, E. A. Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. 2023: 127-137
  • Technology's Palette: Voyager's Eyes and the Hyperchromatic Enhancement of Jupiter and Saturn. Technology and culture Kessler, E. A. 2021; 62 (4): 1087-1118


    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, NASA's Voyager mission offered the first clear pictures of Jupiter and Saturn. These images show the planets in strikingly brilliant, recognizably engineered, psychedelic colors: technology's palette. The use of color was justified on epistemological grounds; it made visible scientifically compelling features. But color palette also has a history, one that has not been previously considered. This article takes up this history and adds to the literature on the visual culture of science. It establishes that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's pioneering role in digital image processing, the color conventions adopted for representing Earth, and American counterculture of the 1960s and its attitudes toward technology together created the conditions that allowed for hyperchromatic views of the planets. Technology's palette enhanced the scientific understanding of Jupiter and Saturn, while simultaneously celebrating technologically enhanced vision and the promise of seeing by means of humanmachine collaborations.

    View details for DOI 10.1353/tech.2021.0198

    View details for PubMedID 34719514

  • “‘This is Home’: Imagining and Reimagining the Extraterrestrial through the Voyager Golden Record,” New Geographies 11: Extraterrestrial Kessler, E. A. 2020: 21-24
  • To See the Unseeable APERTURE Kessler, E., Galison, P. 2019: 75–78
  • Cutting through Abundance: Raf Simons and the Artful Slice JOURNAL OF VISUAL CULTURE Kessler, E. A. 2015; 14 (2): 208-212
  • Resolving the nebulae: the science and art of representing M51 Annual Meeting of the History-of-Science-Society Kessler, E. A. ELSEVIER SCI LTD. 2007: 477–91