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Professor Emily Thomas

Professor / On research leave

Professor / On research leave in the Department of Philosophy


Office Hours

Currently on research leave.


I’m a historian of philosophy, focusing on seventeenth to early twentieth century metaphysics. Much of my work concerns time and space, but I’m also interested in substance, change, idealism, process, emergentism, personal identity, and philosophical questions about travel. I like digging out the work of rich but under-studied figures, including women philosophers who have traditionally been neglected in the history of philosophy.

Two of my monographs are scholarly: Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics (2018, Oxford University Press) considers seventeenth century time theories; whilst Victoria Welby (2023, Cambridge University Press) offers the first study of Welby’s metaphysics. My trade book, The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad (2020, Oxford University Press), explores philosophical issues around travel, from the “Age of Discovery” to the present day, including maps, climate change, and wilderness. It’s been widely reviewed - see for example The Wall Street Journal.

I have edited two collections: Early Modern Women on Metaphysics (2018, Cambridge University Press); and the special issue Time at the Turn of the Twentieth Century in American-British Philosophy (2023, British Journal for the History of Philosophy).

In 2020, I won a Philip Leverhulme Prize for excellence in research. My earlier work has been supported by a Netherlands Research Council “Veni”, a John Templeton Foundation stipend, and a British Academy “Rising Star” grant. I currently hold an AHRC Leaders Fellowship, to investigate 1880s-1930s British metaphysics of time. Does the present move? Is the future real? Why and how did philosophers become so worried about these questions?

I am committed to getting philosophy out beyond the academy. You can listen to me talking about Bergson and time on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time; and about travel on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week. My writing has appeared in magazines such as Aeon, History Today, and The ConversationI tweet regularly about philosophy @emilytwrites

Previously, I studied for my PhD at the University of Cambridge, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen. I sit on editorial or advisory boards for the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, the journal Analysis, Cambridge Elements, the International Association for the Philosophy of Time, and the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Philosophers. At Durham, I am a Senior Fellow of University "Castle" College. For my popular books I am represented by United Agents

For further information about my research, popular writing, and media work, please see my personal website

Research interests

  • American-British metaphysics (17th to early 20th century)
  • Space and time (in the history of metaphysics)
  • Women in the history of philosophy
  • Philosophy of travel
  • Pictures in the history of philosophy


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Supervision students