Vernacular Science of the New Madrid Earthquakes: Creating Knowledge in the Early United States

Conevery Bolton Valencius

Conevery Bolton Valencius. Photo by Andrew Kilgore.

Date: March 15, 2013
Time: 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: Online registration is now closed.

In the winter of 1811–1812 massive earthquakes shook the middle Mississippi Valley. The earth cracked, huge sand blows spurted liquefied sand, and the Mississippi River ran backwards. What we now call the New Madrid earthquakes frightened and fascinated people across North America. This presentation, from a forthcoming book on the history of the New Madrid earthquakes, argues that the intense public interest and discussion surrounding these now-forgotten earthquakes reveal the busy and engaged world of scientific thinking and scientific inquiry in the early United States.  

This lecture by Conevery Bolton Valencius is the keynote address for the 9th annual meeting of the Workshop for the History of Environment, Agriculture, Technology, and Science (WHEATS).  

About the Speaker

Conevery Bolton Valencius writes and teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her classes wrestle with the topics of the U.S. Civil War, American environmental history, and the history of science and medicine. In fall 2013 University of Chicago Press will publish her current project, The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes. Her 2002 book, The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land, earned prizes from the Society of American Historians and the American Society of Environmental History. Most recently, the History of Science Society awarded Valencius and her coauthor Peter Kastor the 2012 Women in Science award for their article on the illness of Sacagawea during the Lewis and Clark expedition. Valencius has also written on the history of seismology, the scientific writing of Russian novelist Anton Chekhov, health and death on the Santa Fe Trail, the lively role of Darwin’s Origin of Species in an environmental-history seminar, and the international spread of ISOTYPE picture language. She graduated from Little Rock Central High School, earned a B.A. degree from Stanford University, and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has won teaching and research awards at Washington University in St. Louis and at Harvard University and as a free-range academic. She is now curious about earthquakes and fracking in contemporary American culture.  

About Our Partners

Since its inauguration in 2004, WHEATS has aimed to bring together graduate students studying the environment, agriculture, science, and/or technology from a historical perspective. The workshop welcomes students from such allied disciplines as geography and anthropology who are doing work of a historical nature. The Doctoral Program in History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania is hosting this year’s meeting from March 15 through March 17, 2013.

Register for an event link

Need Meeting Space?

CHF’s state-of-the-art conference center is in Philadelphia’s beautiful historic district.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.