Head of Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment; Head of Department of Philosophy and History; Professor of Science and Technology Studies.
I am a physicist by training (MSc 1993) and received a PhD in modern history of science and technology in 1999. I held fellowships and positions in numerous places in Germany, the United States and Switzerland before taking up a position at KTH as associate professor of science and technology studies with historical orientation in 2011. I was rewarded the German Docent title in 2010 and the Swedish Docent title in 2014, both for the subject history of science, technology and environment. Since July 2016 I serve as Head of Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, and since July 2018 I am also Head of Department of Philosophy and History. I was promoted to professor of science and technology studies in 2022.
My research addresses the earth and environmental sciences from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries in a global historical perspective: aviation and atmospheric physics; oceanography and deep-sea exploration; space flight and ecology. For my doctoral thesis I studied how the technology of ballooning brought about a new science: physics of the higher atmosphere, later called “aerology”, turned the “third dimension” into an object of scientific exploration and conquest. In my postdoc project I explored the oceanographic charting of the deep seas in the 19th and 20th centuries as a part of the major geopolitical struggles at the peak of European imperialism. My recent work has focused on the spaceship as a key metaphor in the late twentieth-century debate over the world’s resources and the future of humankind. The figure of Spaceship Earth could reconcile sufficiency and efficiency ideals in systems ecology and in space flight. The spaceship transformed concerns about living space as a limited resource and beliefs in scientific and technological prowess into visions of closed artificial habitats or “life-support systems“ on Earth and beyond. Recently I worked on an RJ-funded research project that explores the science and the fiction of "terraforming" and changing concepts of life on Earth (“Life on Mars: The Science and Fiction of Terraforming and the Future of Planet Earth“, 2018–2020).
Since I began working at KTH I have been involved in several other research groups and projects. In the VR-funded project “Views from a Distance: Remote Sensing Technologies and the Perception of the Earth” (2013-2016) I explored satellite sensing technology for the measurement of ocean temperatures and the monitoring of the Earth's climate cycles. I studied forecasting efforts based on satellite data with the example of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission for El Niño observation in the 1990s. As a member of the ERC Advanced Grant project SPHERE “Study of the Planetary Human-Earth Relationship: The Rise of Global Environmental Governance” (2018-2023) I currently study scientific conceptions of the earth's environment. My first case study dealt with the sciences of plant engineering in Stockholm's first Phytotron, a climate laboratory for plants in the 1960s. In 2020 I was awarded a large Formas grant in the program “Realising the global sustainable development goals” with the project “The Mediated Planet: Claiming Data for Environmental SDGs” (2020-2024). This project explores the global environment as the result of environmental data gathering and sharing, but also of new ways of data distribution, access and ownership.
I extended my research on ecology and economy to study how the ‘servitization’ of nature supported market-based approaches to sustainability since the 1970s. In my work I have focused on stress ecology, on the concept of resilience, and on biodiversity portfolio management. From this work emerged my VR-funded research project titled “Saving Nature: Conservation Technologies from the Biblical Ark to the Digital Archive“ (2015-2017), which analyzed collecting and classification practices in the history of botany as technologies of conservation, from the taxonomies of the early modern age to biodiversity as the key to survival of life in the late 20th century.