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, June 18, 2024 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Pamela Overmann, head curator for the Naval Art Collection, United States Navy History and Heritage Command

  • Tuesday, July 16, 2024 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Summer Special: Ocean Digital Humanities
    Join us as a panel of historians shares their expertise, experiences, and insights in Digital Humanities.
    Sean Fraga, USC Dornsife
    Jonathan Galka, Harvard University
    Anke Finger, University of Connecticut
    Christine Peffer, H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences Online

  • Tuesday, August 20, 2024 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Alison Glassie, Northeastern University

Past Meetings

  • May 21, 2024

    Jonathan Galka, Harvard University, "Mineral Dreams: Manganese Nodules & Anticolonial Worldmaking at Sea." 

  • April 16, 2024

    Alessandra Passariello, Naples Zoological Station, "The Bay of Porto Paone: The First “Tiny Underwater Nature Reserve” in the Gulf of Naples (1960-1966)" 

  • March 19, 2024

    Elexis Trinity Williams, Cornell University, "Seeing with Sound: Acoustic Epistemologies at Sea"

  • February 20, 2024

    Kimia Shahi, University of Southern California, "Charting Coastlines and Visualizing Slavery: Visibility and the Limits of Cartography in the Coast Survey’s Maps"

  • January 16, 2024

    Anne Ricculli, Morris Museum, "Coral Fisheries, Neglected: Peter Lund Simmonds and the Economics of Depth-Dependent Research, 1860s-1870s"

  • December 21, 2023

    We're partnering with the International Commission of the History of Oceanography to host a fun and informal reading group of portions of Jamie Jones's new book, Rendered Obsolete: Energy Culture and the Afterlife of US Whaling, with the intention of bringing together scholars of ocean history across Asia and beyond (thus the special time slot!) This meeting is concerned with thinking about how intersections between energy and environmental history at sea are understood and explored in Asian oceanic contexts, but it is also about introducing ourselves to one another and making connections across shared interests among those working in and on the Asian region. Readings from the book's introduction and first chapter will be posted in advance of the meeting.

  • November 21, 2023

    Nancy Ko, Columbia University, "Absorbent Empire: An Ecological History of Sephardic Memory in the Global Dodecanese"

  • October 17, 2023

    Natalia Gándara Chacana, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaiso, Chile, "Below the waves: the construction of knowledge about the depths of the Southeastern Pacific during the Age of Revolutions"

  • September 19, 2023

    Robert Batchelor, Georgia Southern University, “Reframing Borderwaters: Marshall Island Stick Charts as Infrastructures”

  • July 18, 2023

    Helen Rozwadowski, University of Connecticut, "Sounding Ocean Maps for Early Modern Understanding of the Volumetric Ocean"
    NOTE re: downloads: Turn on comments in the PowerPoint PDF to match the figures with the text.)

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.


  • dmccahey's picture

    Daniella McCahey

    Daniella McCahey is an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University, where she primarily teaches on British history and the history of science. She studies the relationship between science and the environment in Polar Regions, especially islands, coasts, and ice shelves. She is the co-author of Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects (Bloomsbury 2022). Her book project, Laboratories at the Bottom of the World, addresses the history of British and New Zealand science in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year. 


  • Katharina's picture

    Katharina Steiner

    Katharina Steiner received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Zurich. She currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship as 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.


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