Conference Seminar

Atmospheres: a series of art-science interactions

NEXT EVENT – April 30, 2019

Our next Atmospheres presentation will be by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde on Tuesday 30 April @ 1 PM, at the University of Manchester (Building: Coupland 3, Lecture Theatre B)

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EHESS Seminar Series “Perception du climat: les météores”

Paris, October 2018 – June 2019


Dans la continuité du séminaire « perception du climat » de l’Ehess et avec la collaboration de Météo-France, ce séminaire pluridisciplinaire, hébergé cette année par l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, propose un éclairage sur les météores. Son titre est emprunté au roman de Jules Verne qui a pour point de départ un article de presse relatant le passage d’un bolide traversant le nord de la France le soir du 16 août 1901.

Un météore est donc un phénomène, autre qu’un nuage, que les humains peuvent observer dans l’atmosphère céleste, donc en portant leur regard vers le haut (en grec ancien metéoros : signifie « qui est en haut »). Si l’on se réfère au dictionnaire de météorologie d’Oscar Villeneuve, il convient de distinguer les météores optiques, électriques, aqueux ou solides. Les nuages ne sont pas des météores.

La séance d’introduction rappellera l’histoire du mot et de la chose (de metéoros, « qui est en haut, qui s’élève »), depuis les Météorologiques d’Aristote jusqu’à l’actuelle typologie. Les séances suivantes seront chacune consacrées à un météore particulier, abordé sous un double angle, celui des représentations (littérature, peinture, mythologie…) et celui de la science météorologique  : le brouillard, la neige, l’arc-en-ciel, l’aurore boréale, les mirages, les « météores prodigieux ».


Première séance jeudi 18 octobre :

introduction sur les météores, Martine Tabeaud (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) et Anouchka Vasak (Université de Poitiers)


Ecole Normale Supérieure, CERES, 24, rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris

salle E045, rez-de-chaussée, 15h-17h



Martin de la Soudière (Centre Edgar Morin)

Alexis Metzger (ENS, CERES)

Marie-Hélène Pépin (Météo-France)

Martine Tabeaud (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Anouchka Vasak (Université de Poitiers)


Programme Séminaire perception du climat 18-19 2018-10-14 15_24_33


Symposia on the history of meteorological knowledge transfer in colonial contexts

European Society for the History of Science Conference, London September 2018

Conference report by Giuditta Parolini


Two linked symposia on “(Dis)Continuity Between the East and the West: The History of Meteorological Knowledge Transfer in Colonial Contexts”, sponsored by the International Commission for the History of Meteorology, took place in London this month during the conference of the European Society for the History of Science (14-17 September 2018).

Zhenghong Chen talking about meteorology in China

The symposia, convened by Fiona Williamson, Vladimir Jankovic and Alexander Hall, featured six talks on meteorological history across time and space. The talks investigated colonial contexts in a time frame that ranged from the early modern age to the twentieth century. The symposia engaged with the overarching theme of the conference – unity and disunity – by addressing continuities and discontinuities in Western and Eastern approaches to meteorology. ‘How did Western meteorological knowledge travel to the East?’, ‘What were the people and institutions that promoted its dissemination?’, ‘How was it received?’, ‘What kind of transformations and adaptations took place in the East?’ were questions common to all the talks presented at the conference.


The first symposium featured contributions from Zhenghong Chen (China Meteorological Administration Training Centre) on Chinese meteorology in the colonial era, Huib Zuidervaart (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands) and Stefan Grab (University of Witswatersrand) on meteorological observations in the Dutch colonies during the early modern period, and Martin Mahony (University of East Anglia) on meteorological knowledge production in colonial Mauritius. During the second symposium George Adamson (King’s College London) discussed Gilbert Walker’s work on Indian climate and the Southern Oscillation, Joan Kenworthy (Independent scholar) considered how local meteorological knowledge influenced the understanding of climate in the Kenyan highlands, and Giuditta Parolini (TU Berlin) addressed the case of agricultural meteorology in French Indochina during the early twentieth century.

Martin Mahony on meteorology in Mauritius

The symposia were conceived as an opportunity to investigate the networks of meteorological knowledge exchange between East and West, so far understudied, and to examine how this knowledge exchange affected the material culture and intellectual terrain of the atmospheric sciences both in the colonies and in the West. As argued by Zuidervaart and Grab, the creation of meteorological knowledge in colonial contexts has a long history indeed. Meteorological observations were already common in Dutch colonial settlements in the early modern age and the records of these meteorological observations found their way back to the homeland, where they were discussed within scientific societies.


During the colonial age, Western meteorological science often contributed to the growth of local knowledge in the atmospheric sciences. As discussed by Chen, China offers a clear example of this, because the work done by missionaries and the observatories built by Western nations promoted the development of a local tradition in meteorology. Yet, it would be mistaken to assume that local meteorological knowledge did not exist in the colonies. In the case of East Africa discussed by Kenworthy, colonial and local meteorological knowledge both existed, but issues arose in the attempt to merge the two discourses.

Starting from the nineteenth century, meteorological knowledge became a key asset in the colonies due to the value of meteorological data in many human enterprises, ranging from agriculture to navigation. The meteorological observatory in Port Louis, Mauritius, discussed by Mahoney, and the agrometeorological service in French Indochina, discussed by Parolini, are just two examples of the economic value that meteorological knowledge increasingly acquired, and how colonial authorities sought to generate and exploit such knowledge. Adamson’s talk on the Southern Oscillation added an additional perspective. If Gilbert’s research was prompted by the economic issues posed by the variability of the monsoon in India, understanding his theory of the Southern Oscillation requires shifting the vision from a place-specific case study to the spatially connected world of climate oscillations.

Joan Kenworthy on meteorology in East Africa

The stimulating questions and engaging discussions that took place during the Q&A contributed further to enlarge the panorama of meteorological knowledge in the colonies by establishing comparisons with case studies of colonial meteorology not discussed during the panel, and by drawing connections between historical, geographical and cultural studies of weather and climate.



Asian Extremes: Climate, Meteorology and Disaster in History

Conference report by Fiona Williamson


This conference (17 -18 May 2018) was organised by the Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore (NUS); with support from International Commission on the History of Meteorology (ICHM), and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

The overarching aim of this conference was to explore the weather in the history of anthropogenic Asia. Asia was critical to the development of global meteorological science: understanding extremes such as typhoons were essential to trade, economy and society. Despite the centrality of extreme weather to urban Asia historically (and in the present day) however, this subject has remained relatively under researched. Climate and weather history are established, yet developing fields, although arguably, studies in this field have disproportionately favoured Northern Europe and the US, in large part because of the greater availability and accessibility of records. There are still many knowledge gaps for Asia, partly because of the paucity of records in comparison to Europe or because many archives have either been restricted or have only relatively recently been opened. This conference therefore aimed to fill a knowledge gap; connect with historiographical trends that view scientific history as a globally linked enterprise and, bring scholars working in the field together in discussion. It also explored interdisciplinary work on the subject, with papers from historians, anthropologists and scientists.


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Painting the clouds, from the dawn of the Enlightenment to the twilight of romanticism

On January 16, 2018, a diverse group of scholars including art historians, literature experts and historians of science met at the Musée Delacroix in Paris for a workshop entitled: “Peindre les nuages, de l’aube des Lumières au crépuscule du romantisme” (or Painting the clouds, from the dawn of the Enlightenment to the twilight of romanticism).

Sponsored by ICHM, below the workshop organiser Anouchka Vasak summarises and reflects on the meeting. For a full schedule of the event, please scroll down. read more »

Fellowships Opportunities

PhD Studentship: Industrial Meteorology in Britain, 1950-present

University of Manchester and the Royal Meteorological Society


We are inviting applications for a fully funded ESRC-NWDTC PhD fellowship on the modern history of applied and industrial meteorology and climate sciences in Britain since the 1950s. The award, which is made by the ESRC funded North West Doctoral Training Centre, will be managed in collaboration between the University of Manchester (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine and Centre for Atmospheric Science) and the Royal Meteorological Society. The studentship, which is funded for four years, will start in September 2018 and will be supervised by Dr Vladimir Jankovic (CHSTM), Professor David Schultz (CAS) and Professor Liz Bentley (RMetS). The eligible candidate will be required to complete the Masters course in the History of Science, Technology and Medicne before proceeding to the 3-year PhD research.

The Studentship: During the last sixty years, the application of meteorological knowledge to industrial activities (‘industrial meteorology’) has become global in reach, diverse in outputs, and the subject of substantial research and development. Sectors such as construction, transport, utilities, agriculture, retail and insurance routinely rely on weather information to protect people, manage operations, optimise schedules and secure assets. The historical research will have a policy implication in focusing on the following key questions:

  1. What social, economic and institutional drivers have shaped the growth of industrial meteorology during the last half a century?
  2. Has the applied meteorological information contributed to the reduction of UK industry’s weather sensitivity?
  3. What factors have facilitated or impeded knowledge flows between providers, intermediaries and users of weather information?
  4. Which practices in industrial ‘weather optimization’ have been proven to reduce risk in ways that can be streamlined into UK’s climate adaptation policies?

How to Apply: Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in history (economic, environmental or social), history of science, geography, environmental studies, sociology or other appropriate subject. The candidate will have some experience of relevant research methods and writing skills, although additional research training will be part of the MSc and the PhD progression. For details on eligibility criteria, including UK residency, applicants should check the ESRC website.

Applicants should submit a summary curriculum vitae (2 pages), an example of recent academic writing (e.g UG Dissertation or other Project) and a short statement (1 page) outlining your interests and qualification for the studentship, and the names and contact details of two academic referees to: Dr Vladimir Jankovic, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Simon Building 2nd Floor, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL. The deadline is Friday 16 February 2018. Interviews will be held on Tuesday 27 February 2018.

For further information, contact Dr Vladimir Jankovic (, Professor Liz Bentley (, and Professor David Schultz (


Call for Papers: Royal Anthropological Institute conference 2016

Call for Papers: Royal Anthropological Institute conference 2016 – Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change (27 – 29 May 2016, British Museum)

Scientific Cultures, Public Identity, and Post-WWII Climate Research

Convener: Gabriel Henderson (Aarhus University)

Short Abstract

This panel focuses on the maturation and transformation of climate research as a public and professional scientific effort after World War II.

Long Abstract

By “scientific cultures,” this panel explores — historically and sociologically – the implications of researchers from different scientific fields converging on the study the climate after World War II. Expanding on the claims of Spencer Weart, understanding how this convergence altered the landscape of climate research may help understand how scientists from different scientific backgrounds negotiated methodological disputes, disciplinary boundaries, and their own identities as professional scientists.

By “public identity,” this panel examines the manner in which climate researchers both imagined and engaged the general public about the future risks of climate change. The underlying assumption – an assumption that requires further social and historical scrutiny – is that one’s identity as a climate researcher is shaped by their perceived role in society. As scholars have recently suggested, for instance, different views on public reticence in light of the future risks of climate change led to questions over whether the field of “climatology” itself was an enterprise amenable for public discussion – especially given serious scientific and political uncertainties about the nature and extent of climate-related risks to society.

Propose a paper


Eduard Brückner Prize 2015

Professor Jim Fleming (Colby, STS) has been awarded the Eduard Brückner Prize 2015 for outstanding achievement in interdisciplinary climate research.


The award, administered by the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht für Material- und Küstenforschung, will be presented on September 21 at the German Climate Conference in Hamburg organized by the Deutsche Meteorologishe Gesellschaft,


Geographer, meteorologist, glaciologist and climate scientist Eduard Brückner (1862-1927) was an early advocate for the importance of climate change and its effects on the economy and social structure of society.


Climate research has evolved into an independent field of knowledge that is directly relevant to the social environment of discourse, for the life of individuals and global policy advice. In addition to traditional scientific disciplines such as meteorology, oceanography, earth science, geography, botany, geophysics, and glaciology, the domain of climate research has expanded to include the social and cultural sciences seeking to implement scientific findings in the public realm and articulate the cultural foundations of natural scientific research. Scientific climate research can only be public really significant if it enters into a dialogue with the social and cultural sciences. In order to promote this development, the Eduard Brückner Prize has been established for outstanding interdisciplinary achievements in climate research.

Climate History Network

Climate History Podcast

The Climate History Network has launched a new Climate History Podcast. The first episode is an interview of Geoffrey Parker about the human consequences, and enduring significance, of seventeenth-century cooling.

Here’s a link to the podcast:
To subscribe on iTunes, click here:

Every few months, new interviews will be added with the some of the most interesting people in climate change research, journalism, and policymaking, always with an eye to how we can use the past to enrich our understanding of the present and future.


25th International Congress of History of Science, and Technology (ICHST)

The Website of the 25th ICHST, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, 23-29
July 2017 is now online at:

The Congress organisers have also issued the first Circular of the Congress. It
can be downloaded from the DHST Website:

As for each Congress in the ICHST series, commissions are expected to submit at
least one symposium to the Congress.

Please note that the deadline for proposing symposia for the Congress is 30
April 2016 (