History of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • March 7, 2018

    Selections from two related and recently published books on the history of chemicals, agriculture, and the environment:

    Vail, David D. Chemical Lands: Pesticides, Aerial Spraying, and Health in North America's Grasslands since 1945. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2018.

    Davis, Frederick R. Banned: A History of Pesticides and the Science of Toxicology.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.

    The two authors opened the discussion with comments on each other's books.

  • February 7, 2018

    We discussed the recent Osiris volume on "Data Histories" focusing especially on these two articles related to the earth and environmental sciences:
    Benson, Etienne. "A Centrifuge of Calculation: Managing Data and Enthusiasm in Early Twentieth-Century Bird Banding," Osiris 32 (2017), 286-306.
    Aronova, Elena. "Geophysical Datascapes of the Cold War: Politics and Practices of the World Data Centers in the 1950s and 1960s." Osiris 32 (2017): 307-327.
    Elena and Etienne both presented to open the discussion by providing some background on how the volume came together, what they see as the key contributions and debates it offers, and how their own articles connect those issues to the history of the earth and environmental sciences.
    Also recommended are the introduction by the editors, which is included in the file below, and other articles in the volume, such as those by Staffan Mu:ller-Wille (on natural history) and David Sepkoski (on paleontology).

  • December 6, 2017

    POSTPONED until spring due to technical difficulties
    We will discuss selections from two related and recently published books on the history of science, technology, and the environment in Latin America:

    Buckley, Eve E. Technocrats and the Politics of Drought and Development in Twentieth-Century Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. (Intro and ch. 5)

    Wolfe, Mikael D. Watering the Revolution: An Environmental and Technological History of Agrarian Reform in Mexico.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. (Intro and ch. 4)

    The two authors will open the discussion with comments on each other's books.

  • November 1, 2017

    We discussed two recently published papers on the history of climate change, which take very different approaches to the topic, with discussion opened by James Bergman:
    Supran, Geoffrey, and Naomi Oreskes. "Assessing Exxonmobil's Climate Change Communications (1977-2014)." Environmental Research Letters 12 (2017).
    Coen, Deborah R. "Big Is a Thing of the Past: Climate Change and Methodology in the History of Ideas." Journal of the History of Ideas 77 (2016): 305-21.

  • October 4, 2017

    We will discuss two thematically related papers: a work in progress by Frank Zelko (University of Vermont, who will be present with us via teleconference), "Optimizing Nature: Invoking the ‘Natural’ in the Struggle over Water Fluoridation" and a recently published article by Linda Nash, "From Safety to Risk: The Cold War Contexts of American Environmental Policy," Journal of Policy History 29 (2017): 1-33.

  • May 3, 2017

    Our theme was Polar Science. Adrian Howkins (Colorado State University), author of Frozen Empires: An Environmental History of the Antarctic Peninsula (Oxford, 2016) and Andrew Stuhl (Bucknell University), author of Unfreezing the Arctic: Science, Colonialism, and the Transformation of Inuit Lands (Chicago, 2016) will open the discussion by commenting on each others' books.

  • April 11, 2017

    Note Special Day.

    Elaine LaFay, from the University of Pennsylvania, presented “’The slandered torrid zone’: Medicine, Botany, and the Imperial Vision of an American Tropics along the U.S. Gulf Coast, 1820 – 1840.”

  • March 1, 2017

    The group continued its discussion of climate history with:

    • Oreskes, Naomi, Erik M. Conway and Matthew Shindell. “From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming, and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 38 (1) (Winter 2008): 109-152.
    • Weart, Spencer. “The idea of anthropogenic global climate change in the 20th century.” Climate Change 1, (January/February 2010): 67-81.
    • Weart, Spencer. 2005. “Depicting Global Warming.” Environmental History 10 (October 2005): 770-75.

    Optional / Recommended:

    • Nierenberg, Nicolas, Walter R. Tschinkel and Victoria J. Tschinkel. “Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 40(3) (Summer 2010): 318-349.
    • Lepore, Jill. “[Autumn of the Atom]: The Atomic Origins of Climate Science.” The New Yorker (January 30, 2017). New Yorker Online.

  • January 25, 2017

    Note Special Day. Discussion of the "virtual issue" on climate history recently published online by Environmental History. https://academic.oup.com/envhis/pages/virtual_edition_on_climate_change including articles by Lydia Barnett, "The Theology of Climate Change: Sin as Agency in the Enlightenment's Anthropocene" and Joshua P. Howe, "This Is Nature; This Is Un-Nature: Reading the Keeling Curve" along with any other articles that interest you

  • December 7, 2016

    Tiago Saraiva (Drexel University), “Frantz Fanon in LA: Cloning Oranges and American Democracy in the Global South.”

Group Conveners

  • frdavis's picture

    Frederick Davis

    Frederick Rowe Davis is Professor and Head and the R. Mark Lubbers Chair in the History of Science in the Department of History at Purdue University. His research interests lie at the intersection of the history of earth and environmental sciences, environmental health, and environmental history. He recently published Banned: A History of Pesticides and the Science of Toxicology (Yale 2014).


  • MarkHersey's picture

    Mark Hersey

    Mark Hersey is Associate Professor of History at Mississippi State University and co-editor of Environmental History. His research interests lie in the fields of environmental, rural, and agricultural history, with a particular emphasis on the American South, especially Alabama and Mississippi. He is the author of My Work Is That Of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver.


  • jvetter's picture

    Jeremy Vetter

    Jeremy Vetter is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arizona. His research is at the intersection of environmental history and the history of science and technology in the American West. He is the author of Field Life: Science in the American West during the Railroad Era (Pittsburgh, 2016).


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