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The Sage of Monticello looks skyward: Thomas Jefferson’s weather book.

Today I experienced perhaps the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me since I became a historian: in the reading room of the Massachusetts Historical Society, I was handed the … Continue reading

August 19, 2014 · 6 Comments

Bikini Atoll: the sad, outrageous nuclear semi-wasteland of the Pacific.

Smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a very beautiful but very sad place called Bikini Atoll. A ring of coral reefs and small sandy islands … Continue reading

July 25, 2014 · Leave a comment

Starfish: the next victims of climate change.

When I was on vacation not long ago, I visited the Oregon Coast with members of my family. For many years we’ve made a retreat at Yachats, near Newport on … Continue reading

July 21, 2014 · Leave a comment

The saint of Gombe: Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees of Tanzania.

One of the most extraordinary stories of humankind’s interaction with another species on this planet began 54 years ago today. On July 14, 1960, British naturalist Jane Goodall arrived at … Continue reading

July 14, 2014 · 1 Comment

42 Historical Objects, No. 42: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a painting about climate change.

This is the final entry in my “42 Historical Objects” series. I thought long and hard about what to choose for the final article, and after much contemplation I picked this … Continue reading

July 13, 2014 · 1 Comment

From the archives: the curious humor of 19th century almanacs.

My adventure in the archives of the Huntington Library continues! I’ve been looking at all kinds of old books this week, but one of the category of sources I’m looking … Continue reading

June 19, 2014 · 2 Comments

Dark days at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s environmental misfortunes.

In the archives this week, among other things I’ve been looking at the papers of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, and one of my personal heroes (his … Continue reading

June 14, 2014 · 3 Comments

Volcanic memories: Mt. Pinatubo, environmental disaster, and a long-ago sunset.

Twenty-three years ago this weekend, on June 15, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, erupted. This was the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, … Continue reading

June 13, 2014 · Leave a comment

“Chimborazo”: the stunning environmental romanticism of Frederic Edwin Church.

Yesterday I saw this painting at the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art at the Huntington Library, and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s called Chimborazo, and it … Continue reading

June 10, 2014 · 1 Comment

From the archives: an account of the catastrophic Tambora eruption of 1815.

So, as many of you know, I’m now on my research fellowship at the Huntington Library. In a previous post I promised to share with you some cool stuff I … Continue reading

June 9, 2014 · 4 Comments
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