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.

Upcoming Meetings

Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user

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

    Tamara Fernando, University of Cambridge, "Seeing like the Sea: a Multi-Species History of Labour, Capital and Science Underwater at the Pearl Fishery of Ceylon 1800-1925"

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

    Emily Hutcheson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Making Mutually Beneficial Ties: Anna Weber-van Bosse, Symbiosis and the Beginnings of the Self-organized Algological Network, 1880-1904"

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

    Katharina Steiner, University of Wisconsin-Madison, chapter from her book manuscript Visualizing Marine Biology: Wilhelm Giesbrecht and the Naples Zoological Stations 1880-1913

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

    Samm Newton, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Pteropods Realized: From Bio-indication to Bio-inspiration"

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

    Larrie Ferreiro, George Mason University, "The Technology of Armed Oceangoing Ships and the Rise of Overseas Empires"

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

    Judy Johns Schloegel, Independent Scholar, "Instituting Biology in the Great Lakes: Scientific Survey Work and Inland Seas Maritime Culture, 1893-1903"

Past Meetings

  • September 15, 2020

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

  • October 20, 2020

    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")

  • June 16, 2020

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

  • 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).

  • August 18, 2020

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

Group Conveners


  • pkhardy's picture

    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.


  • dmcahey's picture

    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's picture

    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.


86 Members