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Planetary Timekeeping: Paleoclimatology and the temporalities of environmental knowledge, 1945-1990

Mid seminar in doctoral education

Time: Mon 2021-10-04 13.15 - 14.45

Location: Contact for Zoom link

Language: English

Lecturer: Erik Isberg, Div. History of Science, Technology and Environment


This chapter aims to provide a pre-history of paleoceanography in the decade following World War II. By focusing on the emergence of two, partly overlapping, phenomena in the postwar Scandinavian sciences – isotope dating technologies and deep sea core drilling – the chapter argues that a turn towards time and geochronology was visible in the ocean sciences between 1945 and 1957. The chapter follows the Albatross expedition (1947-1949) of the Oceanographic Institute in Gothenburg and the Isotope Colloquium at the University of Copenhagen (1948-1951) and how their results enabled a new kind of temporally oriented study of the ocean. Previous scholarship in the history of ocean sciences has shown how the postwar era enabled the world ocean to come together as a coherent object of knowledge. This chapter seeks to add to this work, by showing how time, and not just space, was a crucial category for producing planetary-scale ocean knowledge in the early postwar era.

Geographically, the chapter considers Scandinavia as an important context for research in deep sea core drilling and isotope research in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It particularly explores the circulation of knowledge between Scandinavia and the United States and follows how small-scale Scandinavian research projects were transformed by the Cold War mobilization in the geosciences in the United States. Between 1945 and 1957 the ocean floor acquired a new temporal dimension, opening up new disciplinary, technological and scientific ways of knowing and sensing the deep ocean.


Belongs to: School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE)
Last changed: Sep 29, 2021