Historians probe geophysics in Seattle



The history of geophysics is becoming a “hot topic” among historians of science and technology. While previous annual meetings of the History of Science Society had few papers on the topic, the latest meeting of the society on October 25–28, 1990, in Seattle featured three sessions with a total of 11 papers. Two “works in progress” papers were also on geophysical topics.

The first session on the history of geophysics was Climate Change in Historical Perspective. In spite of all the recent attention given to global warming, it is important to remember that climatic change is not a new issue. Indeed, measured over the course of centuries, approaches to the study of climate and ideas about climatic change have been changing more rapidly than the climate itself. In addition to being interesting in its own right, the history of climatic change is beginning to play a crucial role in global change education, research, and policy decisions. Papers in this session spanned 200 years of the history of climatology as a science and climatic change as an issue.