Working Groups

History of Ocean Science, Technology and Medicine

Historians of science have recently begun to examine role of the oceans themselves in human activity, not just as a pathway between places that matter, but as a place with a history of its own, with which humans have always interacted. In turning their gaze to the other two thirds of the earth's surface, scholars thus acknowledge the oceans as a changeable and changing place, affecting and affected by human activities. This "oceanic turn" is playing out in the humanities broadly, as scholars in many disciplines explore the role of the oceans in human endeavors including labor, culture, politics, industry, law, or literature. Spanning many different periods and regions around the world, this group will examine broad conceptions of oceans across history.


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    Penelope Hardy

    Penelope K. Hardy is a historian of science and technology and an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She studies the historical intersection of technology and the ocean sciences. Her current book project examines a series of nineteenth- and twentieth-century ocean-going research vessels and the cultures and practices surrounding their use.


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    Daniella McCahey

    Daniella McCahey studies the relationship between science and the environment in Polar Regions, especially islands, coasts, and ice shelves. Her current book project examines British and New Zealand science in Antarctica during the IGY and she has also begun a research project on the environmental history of South Georgia. 


  • Katharina Steiner

    Katharina Steiner is a historian of science and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studies the connection between science and art, the working cultures of science, and the relationship between ideas, scientific tools, and scientific products. Her current book project explores how the social organization of science shaped marine biological research programs in the late nineteenth century, using the Naples Zoological Station as a case study.


Upcoming Meetings (all times Eastern)

  • Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

    Vaughn Scribner, Central Arkansas University, selections from his new book Merpeople: A Human History (Reaktion Books, 2020)

  • Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

    Sean Fraga, University of Southern California, "Settler Steamboats: Mobility, Settler Colonialism, and Steam Power in the Terraqueous Pacific Northwest, 1846–1872"

  • Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

    Will Scates-Frances, Australian National University, "Captain Vanderford's Rule" (from his dissertation "Faces of Nature: The Race Thinking of Charles Pickering on the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition 1838-1842")

  • Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

    Tamara Fernando, University of Cambridge, “Seeing like the Sea: The Pearl Fishery of Ceylon as a Maritime Assemblage 1799-1925”

  • Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


  • Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


  • Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


  • Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


  • Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Past Meetings

  • July 21, 2020

    Christine Keiner, Rochester Institute of Technology, selections from her new book Deep Cut: Science, Power, and the Unbuilt Interoceanic Canal (University of Georgia Press, 2020).

  • June 16, 2020

    Samantha Muka, Stevens Institute of Technology, "Taking Hobbyists Seriously: Reef tank hobbyists and the scientific value of serious leisure"

  • Membership