Environmental history; history of technology; science, technology, and the law (law and society)
Nick Buchanan’s interests focus on the intersection of science, technology, and the environment using historical and ethnographic methods. His current project investigates the history of artificial environments—model worlds based on chemical, biological, and physical principles that were designed to keep organisms alive in places they would otherwise perish. In concrete terms, the project focuses on Victorian and early 20th-century aquaria and mid to late 20th-century biospheres and life support systems in space craft. He argues that these artificial environments played a central role in shaping our understanding of the environment and the human place in nature, influencing not only scientific thought but also policy.
Nick’s previous work, which examined the contested place of scientific expertise in controversies over environmental governance, engaged similar themes concerning human attempts to control the environment (and often the people in it), the difficulties of understanding and managing complex natural systems, and the tense interplay between science and policy.
Between 2013 and 2016, Nick was visiting Assistant Professor at the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM) at UMN, where he taught courses on ethics and law in science and technology, the cultural history of technology, and environmental studies. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Science and Technology Studies Program at the University College of the University of Freiburg, Germany, and an affiliate faculty member at HSTM. He earned his PhD in History and Anthropology of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his BA in Geography with Highest Honors and Highest Distinction from the University of California, Berkeley.