Personal profile

Research interests

The principal focus of my research is the scientific, cultural and social engagement with weather and climate since the 1700s. I work in five areas. The first concerns the social origins of modern environmental medicine ca. 1750-1850 in connection to occupational and domestic exposures to bad air and bad weather. The second area relates to the historic and contemporary constructions of climate and weather, with the emphasis on the role of environmental crises in the development of ‘disaster’ research and policy process since WW2. The third aspect of my research is the twentieth-century work in small-scale meteorological research, urban climatology and micrometeorology. And the fourth area is about the economics of weather and the private governance of climate change. Most recently, I have explored the ascent of industrial meteorology and the problematic of socio-economic vulnerability to high-imact weather events.  

In Reading the Skies (Chicago 2000) I argued for the importance of a geographical turn in the history of meteorology and its role in observation, standardization and description of severe weather events. In Confronting the Climate (New York, 2010) I introduced domestic interiors as the prime site of the interaction between health and atmospheric environment and investigated why how the disease moved from the body to the space between bodies and why, as a consequence, health became an asset exposed to external hazards managed by ventilation, clothing, travel and portable climates.

Common to most of my work is a focus on mundane frameworks of atmospheric experience. This shifts interest from theorized towards lived weathers and climates and addresses the scale in atmospheric sciences and cultural readings of weather space, first explored at the Weather, Local Knowledge and Everyday Life (Rio de Janeiro 2008). More recently, this interest led to the research project from the UK Economic and Social Research Council on urban meteorology and city planning in which, with Michael Hebbert from the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, I investigated how the city and the weather coexist in the science of urban meteorology and the practice of urban design. 

Overview

As a historian of atmospheric sciences (PhD University of Notre Dame), I have published in the cultural history of meteorology, medical environmentalism and contemporary urban climatology in relation to urban design. I have been the principal investigator on grants from US Social Science Research Council, National Science Foundation, Wellcome Trust, UK Economic and Economic and Social Research Council, and Brazilian Ministry of Science. Currently serving as president of International Commission for the History of Meteorology, I have organized conferences and panels on the history and social studies of climate change in UK, USA, Germany and Brazil. Recent ESRC project (with Professor Michael Hebbert, MARC) has investigates municipal strategies in addressing urban climate change since 1950. In 2005, I presented the Storms of War, Discovery Channel’s five-episode documentary on warfare and the weather. Books: Reading the Skies (Chicago, 2000), Confronting the Climate (New York, 2010) Intimate Universality (with Fleming and Cohen, 2005), Weather Local Knowledge and Everyday Life (with Barbosa, 2009), and Klima (with Fleming, Chicago, 2011).

Teaching

I have built my teaching experience over thirty years of undergraduate and postgraduate work and PhD supervision in philosophy, history of science, and atmospheric sciences. I have taught in different national settings, used several academic curricula, and interacted with students from varied educational backgrounds.

During the last ten years, this work has resulted in syllabi that have become a part of Manchester’s Center for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Apart from the specialized units, I have been long involved in designing our Master’s Degree Core Courses and parts of the program in Biology with Science and Society which is our undergraduate involvement with the Faculty of Life Sciences. During this period I have taught introductory and specialized courses in the history of science, and have introduced three new units which attract students from half a dozen of client departments. History of Climate Change and Science and Globalization were the first courses of the kind to be offered to undergraduates in the United Kingdom, running in parallel with the Crisis of Nature, an introduction to the twentieth-century environmental issues.

My teaching activities have also been outside the CHSTM and the University of Manchester. In 2008 I was invited to give a ten-week intensive graduate seminar on Climate Change at the Brazilian Museum of Astronomy in Rio de Janeiro, with funds provided by the Brazilian Ministry of Science. In 2010, I have contributed to a new national curricula initiative on history in the age of anthropogenic climate change, supported by the Higher Education Academy (see attached document). I am also listed as a consultant on the NSF teaching-oriented application Place and Planet: Connecting Climate, History, and the Modern World. I have recently taught a graduate seminar in political ecology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and gave a plenary during the Elati Conference in Critical Environmental Education, Greece. I gave  public lectures on climate and disasters at the University of Manchester’s Course for the Public and conducted a day seminar on climate change for the Center of Continuing Education.

Two of my PhD students have completed dissertations on the twentieth century flood sciences UK and the institutional history of Met Office. I currently supervise an ESRC funded PhD on the history of church acoustics since 1800.  

University of Manchester: current and recent departmental teaching

Climate Change and Society, 2016 -

History of Climate Change, 2007-09

Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History 2002-2017

The Darwinian Revolution, 2003-2005.

Science and Globalization 2005-6.

Science and the Modern World 2006 - 2013

Major Issues in HSTM 2001-2014

Shaping the Sciences, MSc course 2006-14

Nineteenth Century Biomedical Sciences, MSc course 2006-7

Tutorials and Research Methods

Research Skills Module for Biology with Science and Society

University of Kentucky: Teaching

Philosophy and Classical Physics, 1996-1998

American Popular Culture, 1945-2000, Spring 1999

The Contemporary World,  Spring 1999, Honors Program

University of Notre Dame: TA Courses

Introduction to Philosophy,

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Meteors under Scrutiny: Private, Public and Professional Weather in Britain 1650 - 1820, University of Notre Dame

1 Aug 200020 May 1998

Award Date: 20 May 1998

Areas of expertise

  • D901 Europe (General)
  • History of science
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Social Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine
  • GE Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental change
  • climate change
  • Urban Ecology

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