The Machine in Neptune’s Garden: Historical Perspectives on Technology and the Marine Environment

The Machine in Neptune’s Garden: Historical Perspectives on Technology and the Marine Environment

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Rozwadowski, Helen M., and David K. van Keuren, eds., 2004, 399pp., illus., cloth bound, and jacketed


For centuries, the sea has been an important site of intellectual exploration, where some of the most important scientific problems of different eras have been investigated. The sea has also been an essential economic resource, as well as the locus of strategic, geopolitical calculations. Not surprisingly, then, it has also been a site of heavily capitalized research. Yet, historians and sociologists of science have, unaccountably, paid relatively little attention to oceanography. This volume goes some distance toward overcoming scholarly neglect. And its subjects also lend themselves to a productive mode of inquiry, blending the perspectives of historians of science and of technology.



“ . . . Each article is individually excellent; together they make an impressive compilation…in bringing together a wide range of interests, technologies, and international and scientific issues, (The Machine in Neptune’s Garden) gives a vivid series of portraits of the many aspects of marine science.” —Hist. Phil. Life Sci. 2006, 28

“ . . . The bulk of the book . . . is devoted to ten exemplary case studies that nicely illustrate how the application of science and technology has expanded understanding of the oceanic world and how, in turn, increased knowledge of the oceans has contributed to the advancement of science. These case studies clearly demonstrate that historians of science and technology should pay more attention to the history and historiography of oceanography.” —Technology & Culture

“ . . . The eclectic nature of these essays proves to be a lasting contribution of this text. Progress does not often rely on logic alone. Understanding the history of marine science and technology involves many 'unscientific' things, like human group behavior, institutional inertia, pride, wars both hot and cold, sexism, and wonderful irrational dreams of the future. Therefore, what some may mistake at the outset for a clearly defined discipline (oceanography) becomes, on close inspection, a multifaceted field, continually influenced by social, political, and economic realities, by the histories that make us ocean-going humans. The Machine in Neptune’s Garden captures portions of this rich field.” —Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

“One measure of our science’s maturity is that there are now a small but growing number of historians of science specializing in oceanography . . . As professional oceanographers, we have some responsibility for knowing a bit about the history of our field. This book will contribute to that education.” —Oceanography

“This book is a most welcome contribution to the history of the marine environment. Those interested in the history of oceanography will be familiar with edited volumes of international congresses, which are expansive in subject matter and authorship, with limited usefulness to historians. In contrast . . . all of the authors seem determined to address questions in which historians, rather than scientists, take an abiding interest . . . The essays reveal the interdisciplinarity of oceanography, the disparate interests in the sea and its uses, and the dependence on technology to construct knowledge of the sea . . . The interplay of technology and science at sea allows these scholars to highlight themes that environmental historians will find useful . . . For those interested in making contributions to the growing historical literature on the marine environment, this book will be indispensable.” —Environmental History

“ . . . Though necessarily addressing the technological more than the environmental, the contributions . . . nonetheless overlap in key areas, and certainly—as the subtitle promises—lend an important perspective on the increasing sophistication of human interaction with the world’s oceans . . . it is devoutly wished that researchers and interested readers alike might be assured of further published proceedings from future Maury workshops.” —Journal of Military History

. . . A series of high quality articles, several of them dealing with important, but little known (at least to this reviewer) aspects of oceanographic history over the past century-and-a-half or so. Individually they are excellent, but despite the common technological theme they don’t hang together very well . . .
Journal for Marine Research

. . . The editors and publisher can be commended for producing a readable and visually interesting volume . . . This important collection of essays about technology and the marine environment tells of the undoubtedly impressive advances in knowledge about the oceans. It is also a troubling history of the shortsighted use of the marine environment. And, as historians of technology have repeatedly shown, it is the ever optimistic view of technology’s unlimited potential and the inevitable inadequacy of that vision which makes this compelling history.” —Scientia Canadesis