Etienne Benson, historian of science, technology, and environmentI am a historian of science, technology, and environment in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. My research focuses on the history of relationships between humans and animals and on the history of environmentalism and the environmental sciences.

My book Wired Wilderness is about the history of wildlife radio-tracking. It has been described as an “important addition to an emerging picture on how and why efforts emerged to keep a pulse on the planet” and “a gripping tale of wildlife research in the face of constant aggravation.” I have also published articles on the urbanization of gray squirrels, conflicts between birds and power lines, the regulation of endangered species research, and other subjects. Many of these publications are available for download on the Publications page.

My interest in the history of environmental concepts has resulted in a book titled Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in early 2020.

My current research focuses on the history of fluvial geomorphology, a scientific field that was crucial to many of the major water development projects of the twentieth century. This project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. For more, see the project website Rivers of Data.

I also do some work at the intersection of computing and the humanities. My experiments in digital media include a re-enactment of an “antique” animal simulation from 1967 and an interactive map of applications to import polar bear trophies to the United States between 1997 and 2008. In the spring of 2016 I was a faculty fellow of Penn’s Price Lab for Digital Humanities.

Before arriving at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment and a research scholar in Department II of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. I have also taught courses at New York University-Berlin and the University of Chicago and have been a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. I received my PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology & Society from MIT in 2008.