[HISTSCI 132. History of Environmental and Earth Sciences]

Our understanding of Earth has changed radically in the last two centuries: after many years of debate, many major questions have come to be seen as largely answered. It is now accepted that the planet formed over 4.5 billion years ago; that the Earth’s surface is made of rigid segments—called plates—whose horizontal motions are responsible for the major terrestrial features, and that there is both life and deep circulation in the deep ocean.  Most recently, contributions from planetary sciences and astrobiology have queried Earth’s uniqueness. This course introduces students to the history of the earth and environmental sciences from the eighteenth century to now. We investigate debates over gradualism versus catastrophism, plate tectonics, ocean circulation, Biblical and geological understandings of Earth’s origins, the Gaia hypothesis, and anthropogenic climate change, as well as the emergent technology of “geoengineering.”

Note: Likely offered Fall 2020.



Sophia Roosth





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History of Science

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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2019-2020 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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