Ryan Hearty

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University

2021 to 2022
Research Fellow

The Pollution Experts: Water and Environmental Engineering in the United States, 1948 to 1990

My dissertation is about the relationship between water pollution and the field of environmental engineering in the United States, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s, a period of major transformations in environmental knowledge, policy, and activism. I am interested in how environmental engineers sustained their relatively small field within a broader system of pollution experts. This project helps scholars understand how engineers responded to these transformations and how their practices compared with those of other pollution experts, such as biologists. I focus on four engineering practices: monitoring rivers and water treatment plants using sensor networks; modeling polluted rivers and plant processes; consulting with governments, city councils, and health agencies on projects; and developing standards and criteria for water quality. The project offers a new perspective on what it meant to “engineer” the environment in the second half of the twentieth century.