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 20, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Jennifer Hubbard, Toronto Metropolitan University, "Colonizing the Oceans: Fisheries Scientists as Agents of Empire in the Pacific"

  • Tuesday, July 18, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Helen Rozwadowski, University of Connecticut 

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    The working group will not meet this month. Stay tuned for the fall schedule!

Past Meetings

  • May 16, 2023

    Ellen Arnold, University of Stavanger, "Dangerous Waters"

  • April 18, 2023

    Dominik Hünniger, Universität Hamburg, “Unnamed marine animals” – knowledge formation on oceanic microfauna, ca. 1750-1850"

  • March 21, 2023

    Victoria McAlister, Towson University
    “The Herring Speaks: Exploitation of Marine Resources in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland.” 

  • February 21, 2023

    Kunyan Zheng, Trinity College Dublin, "Health from Nature: Medical Knowledge of Marine Fish Fish in England, c. 1540-1700"

  • January 17, 2023

    Lino Camprubí, Universidad de Sevilla, "Jason and the Argonauts: Temporality, Usability, and Tacit Knowledge in Remote Ocean Monitoring"

  • November 15, 2022

    *Note Special Time*
    Samantha Muka, Stevens Institute of Technology, " 'A New York Institution': The impact of the New York Aquarium on the development of American biology, 1898-1967" 

  • October 18, 2022

    Urna Mukherjee, Johns Hopkins University, "Malabar Teak" and "Bengal-made Canvass": Indigenous Expertise in Eighteenth Century Shipbuilding in British Colonial Bombay and Calcutta

  • September 20, 2022

    Jack Bouchard, Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
    Two chapters from his manuscript Terra Nova: Work, Water and Food in an Early Atlantic World

  • August 16, 2022

    "Oceans in the Archives"
    Join us as a panel of archivists introduce us their collections on ocean history, finding aids and funding for researchers.
    Laura Kissel, Polar Curator (Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program, The Ohio State University)
    Daniel Lewis, Dibner Senior Curator History of Science & Technology (The Huntington Library, Art Museum & Botanical Gardens)
    Josh Levy, Historian of Science and Technology (Manuscript Divison, Library of Congress)

  • July 19, 2022

    "Oceans in Museums"
    Join us as a panel of museum professionals share their favorite objects and collections, discuss the challenges of curating ocean exhibits, and share resources for researchers. 
    Dr. Erika Jones, curator of navigation and oceanography, (UK) National Maritime Museum
    Dr. Katrin Kleemann, postdoctoral researcher, Deutsches Schifffahrts Museum
    Dr. Kevin Sheehan, collections manager,  Maritime Museum of San Diego

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 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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