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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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

  • Tuesday, January 18, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST

    Magdalena Grüner, Universität Hamburg, "Else Bostelmann’s Abyssal Visions and the Ocean-Surreal"

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST

    Beatriz Martínez-Rius, Sorbonne Université.

  • Tuesday, March 15, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Alison Glassie, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University.

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    David McCaskey, University of California, Riverside, "Holy Mackerel: Fish, Science, and the Politics of Food Aid in Cold War Southeast Asia"

  • Tuesday, May 17, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Katherine Sinclair, Rutgers University.

Past Meetings

  • November 16, 2021

    Emily Hutcheson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Seeing Ecologies of the Deep and Shallow Seas: Local Labor and Knowledge in the Malay Archipelago, 1899-1900"

  • October 19, 2021

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

  • September 21, 2021

    Penelope K. Hardy, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, seeks your input on her new project: a four-volume edited primary source collection tentatively titled Knowing the Oceans, 1790-1914: A Global Documentary History.

  • August 17, 2021

    Ann Elias, University of Sydney, chapters 2, 4 and 6 from her book Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity (Duke University Press, 2019) 

  • July 20, 2021

    Presenting at a conference this summer? Attended a really good panel? Come tell us about it! We'll meet in July for a meet-and-greet and conference round-up. Bring your conference reports, publication announcements, and news for this informal get-together.

  • June 15, 2021

    We will meet for a wrap-up/discussion of the year's meetings, asking members to identify together themes and questions that arise organically from the papers we've discussed so far. We'll also start planning for the fall; if you have ideas, requests, or questions about presenting a paper to the working group, bring them!

  • May 18, 2021

    Jennifer Hubbard, Ryerson University, "Rescuing the World: The Food and Agriculture Organization and the Quest for Efficient Scientific Administration in World Fisheries"  

  • April 20, 2021

    Katharina Steiner, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Changing Audiences, Changing Meanings: Haeckel’s Copepods and Biology’s Popular Culture"

  • March 16, 2021

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

  • February 16, 2021

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

Group Conveners

  • pkhardy's picture

    Penelope Hardy

    Penelope K. Hardy is a historian of science, technology, and medicine 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.  She is also editing a four-volume primary source collection, tenatively titled Knowing the Oceans, 1790-1914: A Global Documentary History, for Routledge Historical Resources.


  • 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 received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Zurich. She currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-CurieFellowshipas a cooperation between the University of Geneva and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research focuses on the intersection of visual culture and knowledge production. Her book project, Visualizing Marine Biology: Fishermen, Copepods and the Naples Zoological Station, uses the Naples Zoological Station as a case study to show how social organization and work culture shape research programs and scientific products, and vice versa. Her new research project “Depicting Species” investigates the functions and meanings ofscientific imagery and how they changed over time, genres of publication, and audiences.


130 Members