Environmental history, science and technology converge in lecture on George Washington

February 19, 2016 | By Janika Carey

Sweet Briar College’s history department will present a lecture by Mary Richie McGuire ’89 at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, in the 1948 Theater in the Fitness and Athletics Center. “George Washington, Citizen Scientist: Nature, Science, and the Public Trust in Early America” is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Lectures and Events Committee.

Mary Richie McGuire

Mary Richie McGuire ’89

A lunchtime discussion co-hosted by history professor Kate Chavigny will precede the lecture at noon in Prothro’s Burnett B dining room. The discussion is meant as a general introduction to environmental history and science and technology studies, says Chavigny, adding that McGuire will “use Sheila Jasanoff’s twin science and technology studies theories of coproduction and bioconstitutionalism to ask new questions relevant to environmental history of evidence familiar to historians of the Early Republic.”

McGuire is finishing her Ph.D. in science studies with a history emphasis at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation, “Translating Natural Knowledge in an Age of Revolution: Tobacco, People, and Science in Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s ‘Virginia Journals 1795 to 1798,’ ” studies tobacco, a bioartifact, “as a lens through which to view the relationship between ecological, scientific and political revolutions,” she writes in an abstract.

“Latrobe’s sketches, watercolors and journal entries present a view of Virginia’s diverse landscape that is both historical and ecological. The dissertation, a natural history of tobacco in the James River, Potomac River and Ohio River watersheds, argues that the American Revolution as experienced in Virginia was first an ecological revolution that then triggered a scientific and political revolution — a bioconstitutional revolution.”

Both the lecture and discussion will be of interest to a broad audience, says Chavigny, including faculty and students from the environmental sciences, engineering, history and art history, and those interested in Virginia and local history, regional environmental history, architectural and landscape history and environmental ethics.

McGuire holds a B.A. in history from Sweet Briar College, an M.A. in history from Virginia Commonwealth University and an M.S. in science and technology studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She was a fellow in the South Atlantic Project at Virginia Tech, at the J.D. Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg, at the American Philosophical Society, at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, and at the Maryland Historical Society.

For more information, contact Chavigny at (434) 381-6234 or kchavigny@sbc.edu.

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