Shimer College

Bev Thurber

Bev has been a member of the Shimer faculty since 2009. Before then, she taught at Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Associate Professor of Humanities and Natural Sciences


Ph.D., Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, Cornell University

Non-degree studies, University of Heidelberg

M.Ph., Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge

B.S., Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

B.S., Humanities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


At Shimer, I have taught the entire Natural Sciences core curriculum, Integrative Studies 2, Humanities 2 and 3, and electives or tutorials on the history of the English language, Old English, Old Norse, Beowulf, precalculus, calculus, chemistry, technology & ethics, computational linguistics, and Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Away from Shimer, I have taught ice skating, mathematics, fluid mechanics, and writing.

Research Interests

I am interested in Germanic languages and literature, especially Old English and Old Norse.

My main research areas are the history of ice skating and historical linguistics (especially the Germanic languages). These go together well because I spend a lot of time carefully reading old texts to find out as much as I can about medieval ice skating. My recent paper “The similarity of bone skates and skis” is about skating and skiing in Old Norse literature.

I also enjoy using math and science to understand events in literature and mythology, such as how fast Vikings could skate and how Odin’s eight-legged horse managed to run.

Other Interests

My academic interests that are not directly covered by my research interests include ancient and medieval studies in a broader sense, archaeology, computational linguistics, and mathematics.

My main non-academic interests are figure skating and cats.

Research Activity


“The viking ball game.” Scandinavian Studies 87.2:167–188, 2015

“The similarity of bone skates and skis.” Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 9:199–217, 2013

“A new interpretation of Frithiof’s steel shoes.” Scandinavica 50.2:6–30, 2011

“Voicing of initial interdental fricatives in Early Middle English function words.” Journal of Germanic Linguistics 23.1:65–81, 2011

J.W.M. Bush, B.A. Thurber, and F. Blanchette, “Particle clouds in homogeneous and stratified environments,” Journal of Fluid Mechanics 289:29–54, 2003


“Sliding on ice and snow in Old Norse literature.” International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2012

“Literature as science: A Baconian analysis of blindness in Oedipus the King.” Association for Core Texts and Courses Annual Conference, Milwaukee, WI, March 2012

“How Sleipnir ran: The physics of octopedal equine locomotion.” Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies, Ithaca, NY, June 2011

“Footwear for knattleikr.” Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies, Ithaca, NY, June 2010

“An icy adventure in Friðþjófs saga ins frækna.” Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies, Ithaca, NY, May 2009

“How fast could Vikings skate?” Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies, Ithaca, NY, May 2007

“Bone skates and climate dynamics.” Fiske Conference on Medieval and Icelandic Studies, Ithaca, NY, May 2006

Awards and Honors

Participant, Council of Independent Colleges / Center for Hellenic Studies Seminar “Ancient Greece in the Modern College Classroom” (Topic: The Iliad), Washington, DC, Summer 2013

Cornell-Heidelberg Exchange Fellowship, 2007–08

James F. Slevin Assignment Sequence Prize, Spring 2007

Cornell University Provost’s Diversity Fellowship, Fall 2006

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2003–06