4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Ecology / Nature Conservation / Planning Timeline


2,800,000 BCE – 8,000 BCE

The Holocene Interglacial Period Begins Circa 10,000 BCE

The Holocene interglacial, a geological interval of warmer global average temperature that separates glacial periods within an ice age, began circa 10,000 BCE.

"Human civilization, in its most widely used definition, dates entirely within the Holocene. The word anthropocene is sometimes used to describe the time period from when humans have had a significant impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems to the present" (Wikipedia article on Holocene, accessed 07-10-2010).

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8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Oldest Non-Clonal, Acknowledged Living Organism Circa 3,051 BCE

Bristlecone pinetree nickednamed Methuselah.

The oldest non-clonal, acknowledged living organism is the Great Basin bristlceone pine Pinus longaeva located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California. One member of this species, the location of which has not been specifically identified, is estimated to have germinated in 3051 BCE, making it 5064 years old in 2014.

In 1964 Donald R. Currey, a student of the University of North Carolina taking core samples of bristlecone pines, discovered "Prometheus" in the Snake Range of eastern Nevada, in a cirque below Wheeler Peak. Currey's coring tool broke and, regrettably the U.S. Forest service granted permission to cut down "Prometheus." 4,844 rings were counted on a cross-section of the tree, making "Prometheus" at least 4,844 years old, and the oldest known non-clonal living thing.

"A specimen of this species, located in the White Mountains of California was measured by Tom Harlan to be 5,062 years old in 2012. The identity of the specimen is being kept secret by Harlan. This is the oldest known tree in North America, and the oldest known individual tree in the world, although a clonal individual, nicknamed "Old Tjikko", a Norway spruce in Sweden is 9,550 years old.

"The previously oldest named specimen of this species, "Methuselah", is also located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains. Methuselah is 4,844 years old, as measured by annual ring count on a small core taken with an increment borer. Its exact location is also kept secret.

"Among the White Mountain specimens, the oldest trees are found on north-facing slopes, with an average of 2,000 years, as compared to the 1,000 year average on the southern slopes. The climate and the durability of their wood can preserve them long after death, with dead trees as old as 7,000 years persisting next to live ones" (Wikipedia article on Pinus lagaeva, accessed 11-09-2014).


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1500 – 1550

Johannes Werner Issues a Pioneering Work on Environmental Science and Meteorology 1546

Canones sicut brevissimi, ita etiam doctissimi, complectentes praecepta & observationes de mutatione aurae by the German parish priest, mathematician, astronomer, and instrument maker Johann(es) Werner was published posthumously in Nuremberg by J. Montanus and U. Neuber.

Werner was the first to make regular observations of weather conditions in Germany; together with Tycho Brahe, he pioneered the practice of collecting meteorological data for scientific purposes.

“In meteorology Werner paved the way for a scientific interpretation. Meteorology and astrology were connected, but he nevertheless attempted to explain this science rationally. . . . The ‘guidelines that explain the principles and observations of the changes in the atmosphere,’ published [posthumously] in 1546 by Johann Schöner, contain meteorological notes for 1513-1520. The weather observations are based mainly on stellar constellations, and hence the course of the moon is of less importance. Although Werner did not collect the data systematically, as Tycho Brahe did, he attempted to incorporate meteorology into physics and to take into consideration the geographical situation of the observational site. Thus he can be regarded as a pioneer of modern meteorology and weather forecasting” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography)

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1650 – 1700

John Evelyn Attacks Air Pollution 1661

In 1661 English gardiner, diarist and environmentalist John Evelyn published Fumifugium: or the Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated, together with some remedies humbly proposed, a pioneering attack on air polution caused by the "hellish and dismall cloud of sea-coal" which perpetually enveloped London at the time. Of course, the problem Evelyn wrote about did not dissipate, and the work continued to be reprinted, with at least four editions published in the 20th century, including one in 1961 by the National Society for Clean Air.

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Argument for Forest Management 1664

In 1664 English writer, gardener, and diarist, John Evelyn published a protest against the destruction of England's forests to fuel her glass factories and iron furnaces. His book, the verbose title of which was Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty's Dominions. .  . .To Which is Annexed Pomona, or an Appendix Concerning Fruit-Trees. . .also Kalendarium Hortense; or Gardeners' Almanac. . . . was influential in establishing a much-needed program of reforestation in order to provide timber for Britain's burgeoning navy. This program had a lasting effect on the British economy.

Sylva also bears the distinction of being the first official publication of the Royal Society, which had been permitted to publish in 1662.  The first edition contained two appendixes, "Pomona" and "Kalendarium Hortense"; the second of these, a gardening calendar, was often reprinted separately, and proved to be Evelyn's most popular work.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 745.

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1700 – 1750

Luigi Marsigli Issues the First Book Entirely Devoted to Marine Science and First Oceanographic Study of a Single Region 1725

In 1725 Italian count Habsburg general, military engineer, scientist and virtuoso, Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli published Histoire physique de la mer in Amsterdam. This work, illustrated with an engraved frontispiece and 52 engraved plates, and a glowing introduction by physician Herman Boerhaave, was the first book devoted entirely to marine science, and the first oceanographic study of a single region. Marsigli conducted an intensive investigation of the Gulf of Lyon in the south of France, taking soundings to obtain a profile of the sea floor, analyzing the relationship of the lands under and above water, studying the water's physical properties (temperature, density, color) and its motions (waves, currents, tides), and describing the marine life of the region. Marsigli was the first to give an account of formation of the continental shelf and slope, and the first to class corals as living beings rather than as inorganic mineral formations. His belief that the land and the sea bed formed a continuous structure was confirmed when he discovered rock strata dipping below sea level at the coast. Marsigli's work prefigured the systematic oceanographic exploration that would begin fifty years later with Captain James Cook's voyage in the Endeavor.

Deacon, Scientists and the Sea 1650-1900 (1971) 170-185. Stoye, Marsigli's Europe 1680-1730 (1994) 295-96. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1445.

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1750 – 1800

Joseph Priestley Discovers that Growing Plants Restore Air Vitiated by Combustion or Respiration 1772

In 1772 British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published "Observations on different kinds of air" in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

This was Priestley's first paper on the subject, reporting the results of his pneumatic researches since 1770. These included the isolation and identification of nitric oxide and anhydrous hydrochloric acid gases, the discovery that growing plants restored air vitiated by combustion or animal respiration, and the discovery of "nitrous air" (nitrous oxide).

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 217. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1749.

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Zimmerman Issues the First Textbook on Zoogeography 1777

The first textbook of zoogeography, containing the first world map showing the distribution of mammals, was Specimen zoologiae geographicae, quadrupedem domicilia et migrationes sistens by German Geographer and Zoologist Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmerman  published in Leiden in 1777.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2280.

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Ingen-Housz Discovers Photosynthesis 1779

In 1779 Dutch Physician Jan Ingen-Housz published Experiments upon Vegetables, Discovering their Great Power of Purifying the Common Air in the Sunshine, and of Injuring it in the Shade and at Night. 

While investigating Joseph Priestley's discovery made in 1771 that plants could "restore" air made unfit for respiration through combusion or putrefaction, Ingen-Housz became the first to observe and elucidate the processes of photosynthesis and plant respiration. In his Experiments upon Vegetables, Ingen-Housz established that only the green parts of a plant give off the "restoring" gas (oxygen), and only when exposed to visible sunlight. He also found that plants, "like animals, exhibit respiration, that respiration continues day and night, and that all parts of the plant—green as well as nongreen, flowers and fruit as well as roots—take part in the process.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1141.

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1800 – 1850

Mathias Koops Issues the First Book Printed on Recycled Paper, with an Appendix Printed on Paper Made from Wood Pulp 1800 – 1802

On April 28, 1800 Pomeranian-English papermaker Mathias Koops was granted English patent no. 2392 for Extracting Ink from Paper and Converting such Paper into Pulp. Within the patent Koops described his process as "An invention made by me of extracting printing and writing ink from printed and written paper, and converting the paper from which the ink is extracted into pulp, and making thereof paper fit for writing, printing, and other purposes." This was the first patented process for recycling paper, and it is also possibly the first patent received for a recycling process that was— much later— widely used.

Also in 1800 Koops, whose scholarly and inventive attributes seem to have exceeded his business acumen, published the first edition of Historical Account of the Substances which Have Been Used to Describe Events, and to Convey Ideas from the Earliest Date to the Invention of Paper — a serious account of the history of materials used for recording information. To promote his venture to produce paper from materials other than linen rags— The Straw Paper Manufactory— Koops had the first edition of his book printed entirely on yellow paper made from straw. The following year he had part of the second edition, essentially identical to the first, printed on straw, but he also had a portion of the second edition printed on recycled paper, with the exception of the frontispiece image of the papyrus plant, which was printed on straw in both versions of the second edition. He characterized this recycled paper as "Printed on Paper Re-Made from Old Printed and Written Paper." The paper used was of the wove type, without any watermarks. The copies printed on recycled paper were the first books ever printed on recycled paper, and may have remained the only books printed on recycled paper for a century or more; I have been unable to find any study of this topic.

The appendix of all copies of Koops's second edition (pp. 259-73) was printed on paper made from wood pulp. Printing on paper made from wood fibers may have been first shown in Jacob Christian Schaäffer's Versuche und Muster ohne all Lumpen oder doch mit eniem geringen Zusatze derselben Papier zu machen (1765-71), and it is probable that Koops got the idea for producing this paper from Schäffer's work. My copy of the 1801 edition of Koops's book shows that his recycled paper was of excellent quality; his wood pulp paper somewhat less so, since that final gathering of my copy has browned but remains sound.

From the name of Koops's enterprise—The Straw Paper Manufactory— it is evident that he considered the production of paper from materials other than linen rags to be more commercial than the paper recycling process he invented. One of his patents for the production of paper of this type was "Manufacturing paper from straw, hay, thistles, waste and refuse of hemp and flax, and different kinds of wood and bark. British Patent number 2481 published 17 February 1801."

In 1802 printer Charles Whittingham of London issued a 2-volume edition of The Mathematical and Philosophical Works of the Right Rev. John Wilkins, Late Lord Bishop of Chester. To Which is Prefixed the Author's Life, and an Account of His Works. In Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (1947) Dard Hunter stated on p. 525 that this was "probably the earliest use of bleached wood-pulp paper in English book production." It is possible that his paper was made by Koops. However, it is quite different from the wood pulp paper used as the appendix for Koops' 1801 edition as the paper in the 1802 Wilkins is thicker,with a rougher text, and has not browned. It does however have several flaws and would appear to be of an experimental nature. If Koops did produce the paper used in Whittingham's 1802 edition of Wilkins it is likely that he changed the process between 1801 and 1802. One should note that although Koops' process involved innovative technology it remained a process of making paper by hand as the Robert / Gamble papermaking machine was not in operation by 1802.

". . . By 1800 Koops had experience of manufacturing from waste paper at Neckinger mill in Bermondsey, . . .

"Having proved the possibility of making good paper from such materials, Koops set up a company, the Straw Paper Manufactory, raised over £70,000 by issue of shares, and in 1801 erected a paper-making mill at Millbank in Westminster. Contractors for the machinery included John Rennie, the engineer, and the firm of Boulton and Watt. This paper mill was easily the largest in the country. The enterprise, however, was over-ambitious and under-capitalized. Koops himself was the principal shareholder in the venture and on the strength of this offered to satisfy his creditors. His failure to discharge his bankruptcy by 1802 compelled Koops's creditors to issue a writ, inter alia, for seizure of the Straw Paper Manufactory's assets, and in the end its proprietors could not keep the enterprise solvent. The Millbank paper mill and its equipment were eventually offered for sale by auction in October 1804, thereby ending the possibility of England challenging the European paper industry by using more easily available materials for making paper" (Oxford DNB).


As I indicated above, I have been unable to find any thorough study of the earliest history of recycled paper, of or Koops's business activities, and it is probable that most of the history is unwritten. However, on April 12, 2014 I received an email from my friend and colleague Ove Hagelin in Stockholm, which may provide a clue to elements of the history previously unrecorded. Ove Hagelin wrote:

"When cataloguing the odontological collection at the Hagströmer Library I found this very special edition of a popular dentistry book that may be of interest for paper historians:
"RUSPINI, Bartholomew. 
A Treatise on the Teeth: Wherin an Accurate Idea of their Structure is given,  the Cause of their Decay Pointed out, an their Various Diseases enumerated; to .which is added, the most effectual method of treating the Disoriders of the Teeth and Gums, established by a long and successful Pratcice, by the Chevalier Ruspini, . . . The Tenth Edition + (with separate title-leaf) A Concise Relation of the Effects of an Extraordinary Styptic lately discovered; in a Series of Letters, from Several Gentlemen of the faculty, abd from the Patients. To Chevalier Ruspini, Surgeon-Dentist to His Royal Highness The prince of Wales.London, printed for the Author, and may be had at his house in Pall-Mall; . . . 1802. (Reynell, Printer, Piccadilly). 8vo - leaf: 192 x 120 mm. Pp iv, 5-52 + (A Concise Relation): pp [53]-128. The first five sheets (A-E4, pp 1-40,  are printed on yellow paper made from straw watermarked:

"The rest of the book is printed on white paper but at head of page 42 there is a printed rubric reading “Regenerated Paper”, followed by the description of Case 1, dealing with a Lady of Kent., but there is nothing written about the paper.

"I have tried to trace more copies of this “Tenth Edition”, dated 1802, but in vain. The book was very popular and no less than 13 editions appeared between 1768 and 1813. Richard Aspin at  Wellcome has checked for me that their 1797 edition is printed on normal rag paper. I have also noticed in the British Library catalogue a copy of the 1780? edition printed on “tinted paper”??

 "Can Ruspini, a most ingenious surgeon & dentist, also be a new name  to add to the pioneers  manufacturing his own paper or could he have bought it from Koop’s paper mill and had it watermarked by his name: CHEVALIER RUSPINI PALL MALL PATENT STRAW PAPER ?"
Prior to receipt of Ove Hagelin's email I was unfamiliar with the Italian-born British surgeon-dentist and philanthropist Bartholomew Ruspini, who is remembered, in addition to his dental work, for co-founding the Royal Masonic School for Girls in the small town of Rickmansworth, England. Though at this point we cannot know for certain, the timing of Ruspini's edition, so close to Koops's introduction of paper made from straw and of recycled paper, would suggest that Ruspini purchased his paper from Koops. It is also possible that Ruspini, who may have been concerned that his small book would be pirated, ordered paper from Koops with a special watermark to distinguish this edition from piracies, or just to show how special the paper was. Incidentally, a fine portrait of Ruspini with his family, painted by Nathaniel Hone I, is preserved in The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In April 2014 a reproduction was available from the BBC "Your Paintings" at this link.
Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 48.
Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (1947) 333; see also 332-35.
(This entry was last revised on 04-21, 2016.)
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François Antoine Rauch Writes in Harmony with the Modern Ecology Movement 1802 – 1818

In 1802 French civil engineer François Antoine Rauch published in Paris a 2-volume work entitled Harmonie hydro-végétale et météorologique: ou recherches sur les moyens de recréer avec nos forêts la force des températures et la régularité des saisons par des plantations raisonnées.

Concerned with the disastrous effects of deforestration, which not only affected the agriculture and scenery of the countryside, but also the whole ecological balance of crops, flora and fauna, and human interaction with the ecological system, Rauch discussed the interrelationships between climate, terrain and vegetation, and suggested ways to establish a state of harmony between man and the the environment. He included topics such as the ecological balance found in mountain regions, and suggested in the final chapter, that a ministerial department "of the interior" be set up in order to monitor ecological issues and supervise relevant matters at a local level.

Rauch espoused many ideas to achieve such a 'harmony', including plans for monumental avenues flanked by grand trees and country roads edged by fruit trees. He was also particularly concerned with cemeteries and graves, believing that the dead would rest easier in a 'natural' environment and recommended burial in "natural" places.  

Over the following sixteen years Rauch made many further observations which resulted in a considerably revised, augmented and updated 2-volume work published in 1818 entitled Régénération de la nature végétale, ou recherches sur les moyens de recréer, dans tous les climats, les anciennes températures et l'ordre primitif des saisons, par des planations raisonnées, appuyées de quelques vues sur le ministère que la puissance végétale semble avoir a remplir dans l'harmonie des éléments. Writing from a viewpoint in agreement with the modern ecology movement,  Rauch argued that it is necessary to reverse the process of human destruction of the environment, particularly the world-wide destruction of forests, in order to return the planet to a state better supportive of life.

Rauch began with a consideration of the relationship of forests to weather conditions, surveyed the effects of deforestation world-wide on climate, and animal and human populations, and set out in several chapters steps to be taken: what sorts of vegetation should be planted where, renewal of water sources, and the establishment of governmental agencies in France and all over the globe to observe the environment and take action. He urged the agencies, for example, to consider changes over short periods of time ("to what extant animals and birds are scarcer in the last thirty years" in a particular area), and to attempt regulation of factory fuel sources. In his closing argument he urged the obligation "to conserve the noble economy," and "to conserve that from which we benefit."  

On April 1821 Rauch began publication of a periodical entitled Annales europeenes de physique végétale et d'économie publique. This continued through 1827.

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Nicholas-Théodore de Saussure Demonstrates that the Carbon Content of Soil is Produced by Vegetation 1804

Chemist Nicholas-Théodore de Saussure published Recherches chimiques sur la végetation in Paris in 1804. In this foundation work on phytochemistry, Saussure analyzed the chief active components of plants, their synthesis and decomposition. He specified the relationships between vegetation and the environment. He showed that plants grown in closed vessels took their entire carbon content from the enclosed gas, and thus demolished the old theory that plants derive carbon from the so-called "humus" of the soil. Conversely, he demonstrated that the carbon content of soil is produced by vegetation.

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. (1991) no. 145.54.

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Humboldt & Bonpland Describe Geographical-Ecological Plant Associations 1805

In 1805 naturalist, explorer and polymath Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt and botanist and explorer Aimé J. A. Bonpland published in Paris Essai sur la géographie des plantes; accompagné d'un tableau physique des régions équinoxales [Vol. I of Voyage aux régions êquinoxales du nouveau continent]. In this contribution to ecology Humboldt and Bonpland founded the study of the geographical distribution of plants. In 1799 Humboldt and Bonpland embarked on a six-year tour of research through South America and Mexico, a trip which would afterwards be called, justifiably, "the scientific discovery of America."  The two amassed exhaustive data in a wide array of fields from meteorology to ethnography, and gathered 60,000 plant specimens, 6,300 of which had been hitherto unknown in Europe.  Their American travel journals— issued under the general title Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du nouveau continent, fait en 1700, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804— were published in thirty-four volumes between 1807 and 1834; the sheets of the present work were reissued as Vol. I of the Voyage, with an extra half-title and general title and the plate colored. [We have also seen a copy with the plate uncolored.] Humboldt classified these volumes into six subject groups, of which this volume on plant geography constituted the whole of the fifth.  It contains some very interesting ideas on the relation between natural classification of plants and their geographical distribution, as well as one of the earliest attempts to describe the distribution of plants by characterizing geographical-ecological plant associations.

Hook & Norman , The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1111.

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Foundation of Animal Ecology 1824

In 1824 physician and physiologist William Frederic Edwards published De l'influence des agents physiques sur la viea founding work of animal ecology.

Edwards's main idea was that vital processes depend on external physical and chemical forces but are not entirely controlled by them. Life is different from heat, light, or electricity, forces which, however, contribute to the production of vital phenomena. Edwards systematically examined all principal functions, mostly of vertebrate species; and by varying the external conditions, he de­termined the nature and degree of their modification. Among the phenomena he studied were the minimum and maximum tem­peratures compatible with life; heat production in young and adult animals; resistance of young animals to cold and to lack of oxygen.

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First Description of the Greenhouse Effect 1824

In 1824 French mathematician and physicist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier published "Remarques générales sur les températures du globe terrestre et des espaces planétaires," Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 27 (1824) 136–67. In this paper Fourier showed how gases in the atmosphere might increase the surface temperature of the earth. This was later called the greenhouse effect

Fourier's paper was translated into English by Ebeneser Burgess, and published in the American Journal of Science 32 (1837) 1-20. In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the translation was available at this link.

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The First Ecological Experiment; Source of Darwin's Principle of Divergence 1826

In 1826 horticulturalist George Sinclair, head gardener for the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, published the third edition of Hortus gramineus woburnensis; Or, an account of the results of experiments on the produce and nutritive qualities of different grasses and other plants used as the food of the more valuable domestic animals. . . . This work, published in London, contained 60 lithographed plates by Charles Joseph Hullmandel and was available with plates either black & white or hand-colored.  

In his experiment Sinclair compared the performance of different species and mixtures of grasses and herbs growing on different types of soil. Sinclair first mentioned the experiment in the first edition of Hortus gramineus woburnensis (1816). However, the results, which were so significant for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, were not published until the third edition of 1826. They showed that a greater diversity of grasses planted resulted in greater production of plant matter.  

Sinclair’s experiment provided the foundation of Darwin’s “principle of divergence,” a building block of his theory of evolution by natural selection, by illuminating a central question in ecology and evolution: How is diversity of species in the natural world maintained? Darwin referred to Sinclair’s experiment in On the Origin of Species (1859), but did not mention Sinclair’s name or cite his work, and it was only recently discovered that Sinclair’s Hortus gramineus worburnensis was the source of Darwin’s knowledge (see Andy Hector and Rowan Hooper, “Darwin and the first ecological experiment,” Science Magazine 295, no. 5555 [25 Jan. 2002]: 639-40).

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Theory of the Ice Age; Global Cooling and Warming 1834 – 1841

Although Swiss-American paleontologist-glaciologist-geologist Louis Agassiz is usually credited with originating the theory of the Ice Age, one of the primary progenitors of glacial geological theory was Swiss-German geologist Jean de Charpentier, who began studying glaciers after the Glacier de Gietroz disaster of 1818, in which a lake dammed by the glacier burst through the ice. By studying the Rhone Valley and the huge blocks of granite scattered mysteriously throughout it from the Alps to the Jura, Charpentier confirmed the theory proposed in 1821 by his friend Ignaz Venetz, that these so-called "erratic" (i.e., unconformable) blocks could only have been moved by the action of glaciers, which must have arisen after the formation of the Alps since many of the blocks were mineralogically identical to rocks found in some Alpine peaks.

Using the geological evidence he had gathered, Charpentier was able to refute other current hypotheses explaining the presence of the erratic blocks; nevertheless, when he introduced his glacier theory in a paper read before the Schweizerische Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Geneva in 1834, he was met with incredulity and scorn. In spite of the hostile reception of his ideas, Charpentier maintained his position, inviting others to come visit him and see the evidence for themselves. One of these visitors in 1836 was Agassiz.

"In the meantime, the German botanist Karl Friedrich Schimper (1803–1867) was studying mosses which were growing on erratic boulders in the alpine upland of Bavaria. He began to wonder where such masses of stone had come from. During the summer of 1835 he made some excursions to the Bavarian Alps. Schimper came to the conclusion that ice must have been the means of transport for the boulders in the alpine upland. In the winter of 1835 to 1836 he held some lectures in Munich. Schimper then assumed that there must have been global times of obliteration (“Verödungszeiten“) with a cold climate and frozen water. Schimper spent the summer months of 1836 at Devens, near Bex, in the Swiss Alps with his former university friend Louis Agassiz (1801–1873) and Jean de Charpentier. Schimper, de Charpentier and possibly Venetz convinced Agassiz that there had been a time of glaciation. During Winter 1836/7 Agassiz and Schimper developed the theory of a sequence of glaciations. They mainly drew upon the preceding works of Venetz, of de Charpentier and on their own fieldwork. . . . At the beginning of 1837 Schimper coined the term ice age (“Eiszeit“).  In July 1837 Agassiz presented their synthesis before the annual meeting of the Schweizerische Naturforschende Gesellschaft at Neuchâtel. The audience was very critical or even opposed the new theory because it contradicted the established opinions on climatic history. Most contemporary scientists thought that the earth had been gradually cooling down since its birth as a molten globe.

"In order to overcome this rejection, Agassiz embarked on geological fieldwork. He published his book Studies on Glaciers (Études sur les glaciers) in 1840. De Charpentier was put out by this as he had also been preparing a book about the glaciation of the Alps. De Charpentier felt that Agassiz should have given him precedence as it was he who had introduced Agassiz to in-depth glacial research. Besides that, Agassiz had, as a result of personal quarrels, omitted any mention of Schimper in his book. Altogether, it took several decades until the ice age theory was fully accepted. This happened on an international scale in the second half of the 1870’s" (Wikipedia article on Ice Age, accessed 11-04-2009).

In 1837 Agassiz may have been the first to propose in a formal scientific way that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age. Charpentier did not publish his Essai sur les glaciers et sur le terrain erratique du bassin du Rhone in Lausanne until 1841, a year after Agassiz published Etudes sur les glaciers in Neuchâtel. Agassiz's work, which appeared simultaneously in both French and German editions, consisting of a text volume and a splendid and visually impressive folio atlas of lithographs, undoubtedly received the lions' share of attention relative to Charpentier's more modest production.

Though Karl Schimper may also have originated the idea of glaciation, and proposed the radical idea that ice sheets had once covered much of Europe, Asia, and North America, Schimper never published his ideas. He discussed them with Louis Agassiz, who went on to appropriate the ideas as his own and, much to Schimper's and Charpentier's dismay, undeservedly received most of the credit for their origination.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 17 & 462.

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Mathematical Model of a Continuously Growing Population 1838

Belgian mathematician Pierre François Verhulst published from Brussels "Notice sur la loi que la population suit dans son accrossement" in Correspondance mathématique et physique X, 113–121. In this paper Verhulst constructed the simplest mathematical model of a continuously growing population with an upper limit to its size. "The concept of r/K selection theory derives its name from the competing dynamics of exponential growth and environmental limitation introduced here" (Wikipedia article on Pierre François Verhulst, accessed 01-13-2009).

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Beginning of the American Conservation Movement 1846

A Report on the Trees and Shrubs Growing Naturally in the Forests of Massachusetts issued by American educator and president of the Boston Society of Natural HistoryGeorge B. Emerson, in 1846 was one of the earliest pleas for "a wiser economy" in the use of forests, and a pioneering treatise on conservation. This non-technical guide to the state's principal trees grew out of a zoological and botanical survey of Massachusetts headed by Emerson.

" 'The cunning foresight of the Yankee,' George Emerson complained,' seems to desert him when takes the axe in hand.' The wanton destruction of the state's woodlands was endangering not only wildlife and the ecological order, but the very basis of the human economy as well. It is not generally remembered today that until 1870 the United States took the vast part of its energy and materials from the forest. For 250 years, from the first settlement to the advent of steel fabrication, America lived in an age of wood. The people of Massachusetts, numbering almost 750,000 when Emerson wrote his book, had to take from the forests almost every product they made: houses furniture, ships, wagons. sleighs, bridges, brooms,whips, shovels, hoes. casks, boxes. baskets, bootjacks. From the maples they got sugar, from hickories and chestnuts a good supply of nuts. Most basic was their cordwood for winter fuel; according to Emerson, this fuel, costing an average of four dollars a cord, was annually worth five million dollars. The railroads required another 55,000 cords, chiefly pine, for their locomotives. Altogether, then, the state could not have survived without a steady, cheap supply of trees. Even the bark was needed for tanning leather, while sumac and barberry roots supplied valuable dyes to the cloth industry. Yet each year the forests were recklessly cut away, and no provision was made to replant and protect them. By the 1840s Massachusetts was already importing great quantities of both hard- and softwood from Maine and New York; and Emerson warned that 'even those foreign resources are fast failing us.'

"At best, then, the practical art of woodland management existed only at a primitive level in New England. In 1838 Emerson canvassed some of the more knowledgeable people of Massachusetts to gather a fund of folk wisdom for the future. Two chief principles emerged from his survey to guide the woodsman in cutting: for timber, select only the more mature trees, but for fuel, cut the entire woodland 'clean and close.' In the latter case the consensus of opinion was that the forest would renew itself enough to be profitably cut again every twenty-three years, though the average would vary widely from species to species. 'When the trees are principally oak, white, black, and scarlet, the forest may be clean cut three times in a century,' Emerson noted. After each cut, some of his correspondents maintained, the old stumps would sprout anew and thus perpetuate the oak woods. But in the experience of others, this seldom happened. Instead, the pines would spring up to replace the oak grove, or vice versa. It had long been a vexing problem for the state's farmers to explain why such a succession occurred, and when one's livelihood depended on whether it was oak or pine one had to sell, a reliable answer was vital. According to some countrymen, the cause lay in a magical spontaneous generation that no one could predict. Emerson, though, was sure that by some natural means the older woods must perpetually contain its successor species, either as seeds lying domant in the soil or as small trees growing unobserved on the forest floor" (Worster, Nature's Economy. A History of Ecological Ideas. 2nd ed. [1994] 68-69).

In 1875 Emerson issued a second edition of his treatise in 2 volumes, doubling the length of the text and including many more illustrations including fine chromolithographs of leaves, flowers, and seeds of numerous species.

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Marsh's First Publication on Ecology September 30, 1847

U.S. Congressman from Vermont, George Perkins Marsh, spoke to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont, calling attention to the destructive impact of human activity on the land, especially through deforestation, and advocating a conservationist approach to the management of forested lands.

In 1848 Marsh's speech was published as Address Delivered Before the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Sept. 30, 1847.

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1850 – 1875

Henry David Thoreau's "In Wildness is the Preservation of the World." 1851 – 1860

In 1851 American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, abolitionist, surveyor, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau delivered an address to the Concord, Massachusetts Lyceum declaring that "in Wildness is the preservation of the World." In 1863 this address was published posthumously in Boston as the essay "Walking" in Thoreau's Excursions.

Thoreau second major contribution to the environmental movement was an address he delivered to the Middlesex (Massachusetts) Agricultural Society in 1860 entitled "The Succession of Forest Trees." In this speech Thoreau analyzed aspects of what later came to be understood as forest ecology and urged farmers to plant trees in natural patterns of succession. The address was also published in Excursions, becoming perhaps Thoreau's most influential ecological contribution to conservationist thought.

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Matthew Maury Writes the First Widely Read 19th Century Textbook of Oceanography and Atmospherics 1855

The Physical Geography of the Sea published in New York in 1855 by American astronomer, oceanographer, meteorologist and cartographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, was most widely read study of the oceans published in the nineteenth century, and the first book to deal exclusively with marine science since Marsigli's Histoire physique de la mer (1725). The book grew out of Maury's work as superintendent of the United States Naval Observatiory and Hydrographic Office in compiling observations, mostly of wind and weather, for use in the navigation of sailing ships. Paying more attention to the atmosphere than to the waters of the sea, Maury presented the first attempt at forumulating a general system of circulation of the atmosphere, and derived from it many features of the climates of the earth. Maury's book was also notable for its thematic maps of ocean currents, ocean depths and other oceanographic information.

However, Maury was not a professionally trained scientist, and his system was not acceptable to the professional scientists of his day, but by provoking refutations his book did bring about valuable advances toward understanding the mechanism of the atmosphere. From a "scientific" standpoint, the most worthwhile part of Maury's book was his account of observations of the temperature of the surface of the sea and of the relief and sedments of its bed, largely made under his direction on vessels of the U.S. Navy.

Deacon, Scientists and the Sea 1650-1900 (1971) 293-295.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1463.

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Lorin Blodget Founds of American Climatology and Meteorology 1857

The first comprehensive American work on climatology and meteorology was the American physicist and meteorologist Lorin Blodget's Climatology of the United States, and of the Temperate Latitudes of the North American Content, Embraciing a Full Comparison of these with The Climatology of the Temperate Latitudes of Europe and Asia, and Especially in Regard to Agriculture, Sanitary Investigations, and Engineering, with Isothermal and Rain Charts, published in Philadelphia in 1857. This book was illustrated with 12 folding maps and charts. Based on research that Blodget compiled at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., it was published three years after Blodget was fired from his position at the Smithsonian by its Secretary, Joseph Henry, because of a political dispute in which Blodget sided with Assistant Secretary Charles C. Jewett over the creation of a national library at the Smithsonian. 

According to Rittner, A to Z of Scientists in Weather and Climate (2009), Blodget's career does not seem to have been negatively impacted after he left the Smithsonian. He published numerous other works on statistics and meterology, including several later meterological maps:

"For a number of years after the Henry affair, Blodget worked with engineers on the pacific railroad surveys, determining altitudes and gradients and creating meteorological charts. During this period, he further develped the techniques as mapmaker and would forever draw his own maps for his and other publications." (Rittner p. 25).

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The First Successful Oil Well is Drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania August 27, 1859

On August 27, 1859 American industrialists George R. Bissell and Jonathan Greenleaf Eveleth, founders of the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company (later Seneca Oil Company), and American driller (Colonel) Edwin Laurentine Drake, drilled the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, beginning the American petroleum industry

"In the 1850s the market for light-producing liquid fuels was dominated by coal oil and by an increasingly inadequate supply of whale oil. However, George Bissell, a lawyer from New York, and his partner Jonathan Greenleaf Eveleth had a revolutionary idea. They thought there was a possibility of the crude “rock oil” (now petroleum) that had been cropping up in western Pennsylvania being used as an illuminatory substance. At the time, rock oil was nothing but a smelly hindrance to the well-diggers of the region, with some limited medicinal properties. Yet Bissell and Eveleth, after realizing how flammable the liquid was, believed there was great money to be made in producing rock oil commercially, marketed as lamp fuel and such. But they needed someone- an important, well-respected scientist whose name they could attach to their financial venture, to research the material to find out whether or not it could be used in such a manner. Enter Benjamin Silliman Jr., professor of chemistry at Yale University.

"Benjamin Silliman Jr.’s primary contribution to the chemical world, and certainly the world as a whole, involved the fractional distillation of petroleum, analyzed mainly for the purpose of its qualities of illumination. He was asked to do this as one of the most prominent chemists of his time, and his report [1855] on the subject afterwards had extremely far-reaching influences. The immensely important main idea of his report was that distilled petroleum burned far brighter than any fuel on the market, except those that were far more expensive and less efficient. His conclusion was that petroleum is 'a raw material from which...they may manufacture a very valuable product.' Silliman also noted that this material was able to survive through large ranges of temperature, and the possibility of it being used as a lubricant. 

"The impact of the discovery of petroleum as a high-quality illuminator is obvious. At the time, however, Bissell and Eveleth simply brought some people together to form the 'Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company'- shortly after to be renamed the 'Seneca Oil Company,' after another common, regional name for petroleum. Edwin Drake was in charge of drilling the well, and after many setbacks, generally revolving around the lack of money, he struck oil in quiet, rural, Titusville, Pennsylvania on August 27, 1859. The scenery of Titusville changed almost overnight. Oil derricks and towns filled with get-rich-quick speculators filled the newly-named Oil Creek. The holes were generally unremarkable, especially by the standards of today; the first probably only gathered less than 20 barrels of oil a day. However, the influence of these oil wells, and Benjamin Silliman Jr.’s report confirming the use of petroleum as an illuminant, was massive. Almost equally important in Bissell’s idea and Silliman’s discovery was the use of rock oil for lubrication of the many moving parts in the mechanical age soon to come" (Wikipedia article on Benjamin Silliman, Jr., accessed 09-16-2010).

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Perhaps the First Book on Solar Energy and its Industrial Applications 1861 – 1869

In 1861 French mathematics teacher and inventor Augustin Mouchot designed and patented the first machine that generated electricity with from solar energy.  Continuing his researches, developed various machines for converting solar radition into mechanical power driven by steam. In 1869 Mouchot published La Chaleur solaire et ses applications industrielles. In this work Mouchot described the adaptation of solar energy for powering steam engines. 

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Marsh's "Man and Nature" : Fountainhead of the Conservation Movement 1864

In 1864 american diplomat, philologist and environmentalist George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Called "the fountainhead of the conservation movement" (Mumford, The Brown Decades, 78), Marsh's pioneering work gave a comprehensive scientific account of man's enormous and often destructive impact on the physical world.  Marsh warned of the dangers of the reckless misuse of land then endemic in the United States, pointing to the ruined lands of the Mediterranean region as an example of America's probable future, and called for a program to restore and rebuild the land.  His work had a significant influence on conservation movements both in the United States and in Europe, in part because of his practical orientation: he recognized the role that science must play in any rational program of land management, and believed that natural resources could be used under proper limits to improve the lot of humankind. 

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1443.

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Frederick Law Olmsted Presents the Philosophical Justification for Public Preservation of Great Natural Scenery 1865

In 1865 American journalist, landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted submitted a "Preliminary Report upon the Yosemite and Big Tree Grove" to the Commissioners of California's new Yosemite park. This was the first work to establish the philosophical justification for public preservation of great natural scenery on the basis of its unique capacity to enhance human psychological, physical, and social health.

In 1993 the Yosemite Association of Yosemite National Park issued Olmsted's pioneering work in a finely printed edition limited to 450 copies, illustrated by Wayne Thiebaud. 100 copies of that edition were signed by the artist. 

(This entry was last revised on 03-14-2015.)

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Alfred R. Wallace's "The Malay Archipelago" Describes the Wallace Line 1869

In 1869 British naturalist, explorer, and evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace published The Malay Archipelago.

"The preface summarizes Wallace’s travels, the thousands of specimens he collected, and some of the results from their analysis after his return to England. The first chapter describes the physical geography and geology of the islands with particular attention to the role of volcanoes and earthquakes. It also discusses the overall pattern of the flora and fauna including the fact that the islands can be divided, by what would eventually become known as the Wallace line, into 2 parts, those whose animals are more closely related to those of Asia and those whose fauna is closer to that of Australia. The following chapters then describe in detail the places Wallace visited. Wallace includes numerous observations on the people, their languages, ways of living, and social organization, as well as on the plants and animals found in each location. He talks about the biogeographic patterns he observes and their implications for natural history, both in terms of biology (evolution ) and the geologic history of the region. He also narrates some of his personal experiences during his travels. The final chapter is an overview of the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural divisions among the people who live in the region and speculation about what such divisions might indicate about their history. The book is dedicated to Charles Darwin" (Wikipedia article on The Malay Archipelago, accessed 05-08-2009).

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Forest and Stream Magazine Promotes Conservation 1873

In 1873 American anthropologist, historian, naturalist, and writer George Bird Grinell became founding editor and publisher of Forest and Stream, a Weekly Journal devoted to Field and Aquatic Sports, Practical Natural History, Fish Culture, The Protection of Game, Preservation of Forests, and the Unculcation in Men and Women of a Helathy Interest in Outdoor Recreation and Study. The ninth oldest magazine in the U. S., it was dedicated to the conservation of wild life, induced the birth of the National Association of Audubon Societies, sponsored the National Park Movement, and the U. S.- Canada treaty on migratory birds.

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1875 – 1900

The First Comprehensive Global Study of Zoogeography, Including the first Global Biodiversity Map 1876 – December 2012

In 1876 British naturalist, explorer, and evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace published The Geographical Distribution of Animals through Macmillan publishers in London. Wallace studied the fauna of the Malay archipelago and was struck both with its resemblances to and differences from that of South America, where he did extensive research in the Amazon rainforest. His research expanded into this extensive 2-volume work—the first comprehensive world-wide study of zoogeography, illustrated with numerous thematic maps, including the first global biodiversity map, a map of zoogeographic regions of the world.

Wallace's biodiversity map was not formally updated until December 2012: Holt, Lessard et al "An Update of Wallace's Zoogeographic Regions of the World," Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1228282.

"Wallace recognized that the world is divided into so-called biogeographic regions, which today we know reflect the breakup of the continental plates roughly 200 million years ago. As the former mega-continent of Pangaea split apart, the evolutionary branches of those species cleaved off from one another. Millenniums of isolation following this divergence led to Australia’s wildly unique marsupials, for example, and Madagascar’s beloved lemurs. Wallace recognized these differences and produced a map identifying six major global biodiversity regions. Other maps have been produced since, but for this new effort, the researchers decided to take into account not only the current distribution of vertebrates, but also how they relate genetically.  

“ 'Genetic sequencing allowed us to do things that weren’t possible before,' Dr. Lessard said. 'Looking at these evolutionary links allows us to know which parts of the world are more closely related to other parts of the world.' With a team of 14 international colleagues, Dr. Lessard helped compile and analyze the phylogenetic relationships of 21,037 species of amphibians, birds and mammals. Whereas Wallace highlighted six major animal realms, the team identified 11, and within those realms made 20 regional distinctions. The results were published online today by the journal Science.  

"A few surprises turned up in their analyses. For example, new realms in Central America, East Asia and Oceana emerged. The northernmost stretches of the Canadian tundra make more sense grouped with the Palearctic realm, which encompasses Siberia, Europe and North Asia, than with North America’s Nearctic realm. 'Apparently, plant people kind of informally recognized that grouping in the past,' Dr. Lessard said. 'But for animals, I’ve never seen a map of biogeographic regions showing that connection.'

"The dividing lines will soon be uploaded and freely accessible on Google Earth, and the researchers hope to add information detailing which big animal families are found in each realm and region for curious citizens or researchers to explore" (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/21/a-biodiversity-map-version-2-0/?src=rechp, accessed 12-23-2012).

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Pioneering Study of Community Ecology 1877

In 1877 German zoologist and environmentalist Karl August Möbius published from Berlin Die Auster und de Austernwirschaft.

In this study of oyster culture precipitated by the impoverishment of natural oyster beds, Mobius provided the earliest description of a marine animal community maintained in a state of equilibrium by limitations of resources.  He was the

"first to describe in detail the interactions between the different organisms in the ecosystem of the oyster bank, coining the term 'biocenose'. This remains a key term in synecology (community ecology)" (Wikipedia article on Karl Möbius, accessed 01-13-2009).

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography, 5th ed. (1991) No. 145.61.

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Formation of the National Audubon Society 1886

In 1886 Forest and Stream magazine editor George Bird Grinnell, appalled by the negligent mass slaughter of birds that he saw taking place, urged the formation of the National Audubon Society for the protection of wild birds and their eggs. 

"The public response to Grinnell's call for the protection of fowl was said to be instant and impressive: Within a year of its foundation, the early Audubon Society claimed 39,000 members, each of whom signed a pledge to 'not molest birds.' Prominent members included jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher, and poet John Greenleaf Whittier" (Wikipedia article on National Audubon Society, accessed 01-18-2009).

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Foundation of Aquatic Ecosystem Science 1887

In 1887 Stephen Alfred Forbes, State Entomologist of Illinois and Professor of Zoology and Entomology at Illinois State University, published "The Lake as a Microcosm" in the Bulletin of the Scientific Association of Peoria, Illinois (1887) 77-87. A pioneer of aquatic ecosystem science, Forbes was the first to apply ecological principles to limnology. He emphasized population regulation and the dynamic nature of the community.

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77 Windmill Factories Employ 1,100 Workers in the U.S. 1889

in 1889 about 77 windmill factories scattered across the United States employed about 1,100 workers. They sold water-pumping windmills to railroads, who needed water for their steam locomotives, and to farmers, to pump water for their animals.

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The Sierra Club is Founded May 28, 1892

On May 28, 1892 John Muir and a group of professors from the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University founded the Sierra Club in San Francisco. It is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

"The Club's first goals included establishing Glacier and Mount Rainier national parks, convincing the California legislature to give Yosemite Valley to the US Federal government, and saving California's coastal redwoods. Muir escorted President Theodore Roosevelt through Yosemite in 1903, and two years later the California legislature ceded Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to the Federal government. The Sierra Club won its first lobbying victory with the creation of the country's second national park, after Yellowstone in 1872. In the first decade of the 1900s, the Sierra Club became embroiled in the famous Hetch Hetchy controversy that divided preservationists from "resource management" conservationists. For years the city of San Francisco had been having problems with a privately-owned water company that provided poor service at high prices. Mayor James D. Phelan’s reform administration wanted to set up a municipally-owned water utility and revived an earlier proposal to dam the Hetch Hetchy valley. The final straw was the water company's failure to provide adequate water to fight the fires that destroyed much of the city following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Gifford Pinchot, a progressive supporter of public utilities and head of the US Forest Service, which then had jurisdiction over the national parks, supported the creation Hetch Hetchy dam. Muir appealed to his friend US President Roosevelt, who would not commit himself against the dam, given its popularity with the people of San Francisco (a referendum in 1908 confirmed a seven-to-one majority in favor of the dam and municipal water). Muir and attorney William Colby began a national campaign against the dam, attracting the support of many eastern conservationists. With the 1912 election of US President Woodrow Wilson, who carried San Francisco, supporters of the dam had a friend in the White House. The bill to dam Hetch Hetchy passed Congress in 1913, and so the Sierra Club lost its first major battle. In retaliation, the Club supported creation of the National Park Service in 1916, to remove the parks from Forest Service oversight. Stephen Mather, a Club member from Chicago and an opponent of Hetch Hetchy dam, became the first National Park Service director" (Wikipedia article on Sierra Club)

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The First to Quantify the Impact of Carbon Dioxide on the Greenhouse Effect 1896

In 1896 Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius published "Ueber den Einfluss der atmosphärischen Kohlensäregehalts auf die Temperatur der Erdoberfläche," Bihan til kungliga vetenskapaskademiens handlingar 22, no. 1 (1896) 102ff.  Excerpts of this paper were translated as "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground," Philosophical Magazine 41 (1896) 237-276.

Arrhenius's paper was "the first to quantify the impact of carbon dioxide on the Earth's greenhouse effect and to suggest that its variations have been an important influence on previous long-term changes in climate. His crude estimate that a doubling of carbon dioxide would result in a ~5 °C warming is larger but not greatly different from the 1.5-4.5 °C now estimated for such a doubling (IPCC 2001)" (http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Arrhenius_pdf, accessed 04-26-2009).

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The Garden City Movement 1898

In 1898 urban planner Ebenezer Howard published To-Morrow: A peaceful path to real reform. This book was the origin of the garden city movement, which sought to remedy the evils caused by uncontrolled urban growth and rural depopulation by building planned communities of limited size combining the best features of both city and country, whose construction would be motivated not by private interest but by the best interests of the inhabitants. Howard's movement inspired the foundation of numerous garden cities throughout the world, embodying his principles either wholly or in part. It also had important effects on the more general problem of urban development, drawing people's attention to the necessity for controlling the growth of towns and cities-the modern city planning department can be said to owe its existence to Howard.

Howard believed wholly in the rightness of his ideas, and was very successful in inspiring others to do the same. Although he remained poor all his life, his powers of persuasion were such that he was able to obtain financing for the construction of two garden cities in England. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 387.

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1900 – 1910

The First Prediction of the Possibility of Man-Made Global Warming 1907

In 1907 Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius published Das Werden der Welten. In this work he was the first to predict the possibility of man-made global warming. His prediction that significant global warming would take ~3000 years to develop is now recognized as a substantial underestimate due in part to his failure to foresee the rapid increases in fossil fuel use during the twentieth century.

(This entry was last revised on 12-26-2016.)

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1910 – 1920

Management of Water Pollution 1911

In 1911 industrial and environmental chemist Ellen Henrietta (Swallow) Richards published Conservation by Sanitation: Air and Water Supply; Disposal of Waste [Including a Laboratory Guide for Sanitary Engineers], a work which was particularly concerned with the management of water pollution and its effect on human health.


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The Theory of Continental Drift 1912

In 1912 German scientist, geophysicist, and meteorologist Alfred Wegener published from Gotha, Germany "Die Entstehung der Kontinente" in Mitteilung aus Justus Perthes’ geographischer Anstalt 58 (1912): 185-195; 253-256; 305-309.

Wegener originated the theory of continental drift in this paper on the origin of continents, which he conceived after being struck by the apparent correspondence in the shapes of the coastlines on the west and east sides of the Atlantic, and supported with extensive research on the geological and paleontological correspondences between the two sides. He postulated that 200 million years ago there existed a supercontinent (“Pangaea”), which began to break up during the Mesozoic era due to the cumulative effects of the “Eötvös force,” which drives continents towards the equator, and the tidal attraction of the sun and moon, which drags the earth’s crust westward with respect to its interior. Wegener’s theory attracted little interest until 1919, when he published the second edition of his treatise Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane.

Between 1919 and 1928 continental drift was the focus of much controversy and debate. Later the theory fell into obscurity because Wegener’s drift mechanism was shown to be untenable. With the discovery of new paleomagnetic evidence in the 1950s, and especially with the development of plate tectonics in the 1960s,  Wegener's theory of continental drift eventually became widely accepted. 

Wegener died at the early age of 50 on an arctic expedition at Eismitte in Greenland.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine, no. 2192. 

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"Our Vanishing Wild Life" 1913

In 1913 American zoologist, realtor, conservationist, author, poet and songwriter William Temple Hornaday published in New York at the press of the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) and Scribner's Our Vanishing Wild Life: Its Extermination and Preservation. This was "one of the first books wholly devoted to endangered wild animals" (in the words of historian Stephen Fox). http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amrvhtml/cnchron6.html, accessed 01-19-2009.

Hornaday "revolutionized museum exhibits by displaying wildlife in their natural settings, and is credited with discovering the American crocodile, saving the American bison and the Alaskan fur seal from extinction" (Wikipedia article on William Temple Hornaday, accessed 01-19-2009).

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Plant Succession 1916

In 1916 American plant ecologist Frederic E. Clements published from the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation. This was a seminal work of ecological science, establishing a dynamic model of species succession toward an eventual "climax" equilibrium under the influence of climate and other factors in a given habitat.

"From his observations of the vegetation of Nebraska and the western United States, Clements developed one of the most influential theories of vegetation development. Vegetation cover does not represent a permanent condition but gradually changes over time. Clements suggested that the development of vegetation can be understood as a sequence of stages resembling the development of an individual organism. After a complete or partial disturbance, vegetation grows back (under ideal conditions) towards a mature "climax state," which describes the vegetation best suited to the local conditions. Though any actual instance of vegetation might follow the ideal sequence towards climax, it can be interpreted in relation to that sequence, as a deviation from it due to non-ideal conditions" (Wikipedia article on Frederick Clements, accessed 01-19-2009).

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1920 – 1930

An Early Vision of Transhumanism, and the First Proposal of a Hydrogen-Based Renewable Energy Economy. February 4, 1923

On February 4, 1923, British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (J.B.S. Haldane), delivered a speech at the Heretics Society, an intellectual club at Cambridge University, entitled Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. In this work, which is considered an early vision of transhumanism, Haldane foresaw the exhaustion of coal for power generation in Britain and proposed a network of hydrogen-generating windmills. This was the first proposal of a hydrogen-based renewable energy economy.

"his [Haldane's] "vision of a future in which humans controlled their own evolution through directed mutation and use of in vitro fertilization ("ectogenesis") was a major influence on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The book ends with the image of a biologist, much like Haldane himself, in a laboratory: 'just a poor little scrubby underpaid man groping blindly amid the mazes of the ultramicroscope... conscious of his ghastly mission and proud of it' " (Wikipedia article on Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, accessed 10-20-2013).

"Personally, I think that four hundred years hence the power question in England may be solved somewhat as follows: The country will be covered with rows of metallic windmills working electric motors which in their turn supply current at a very high voltage to great electric mains. At suitable distances, there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen. These gasses will be liquefied, and stored in vast vacuum jacketed reservoirs, probably sunk in the ground. If these reservoirs are sufficiently large, the loss of liquid due to leakage inwards of heat will not be great; thus the proportion evaporating daily from a reservoir 100 yards square by 60 feet deep would not be 1/1000 of that lost from a tank measuring two feet each way. In times of calm, the gasses will be recombined in explosion motors working dynamos which produce electrical energy once more, or more probably in oxidation cells. Liquid hydrogen is weight for weight the most efficient known method of storing energy, as it gives about three times as much heat per pound as petrol. On the other hand it is very light, and bulk for bulk has only one third of the efficiency of petrol. This will not, however, detract from its use in aeroplanes, where weight is more important than bulk. These huge reservoirs of liquified gasses will enable wind energy to be stored, so that it can be expended for industry, transportation, heating and lighting, as desired. The initial costs will be very considerable, but the running expenses less than those of our present system. Among its more obvious advantages will be the fact that energy will be as cheap in one part of the country as another, so that industry will be greatly decentralized; and that no smoke or ash will be produced" http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Daedalus.html, accessed 10-20-2013).

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The Basic Equations for Two-Species Interactions 1926

In 1926 Italian mathematician and physicist, Vito Volterra of Sapienza – Università di Roma known for his contributions to mathematical biology, published "Varizioni e fluttuazioni del numero d'individui in specie animali conviventi" in Mem. R. Acad. Naz. dei Lincei (ser.6) II, 31-113. In this paper Volterra created the basic equations for two species interactions.

This work was translated into English and published in the journal Nature the same year as "Fluctuations in the abundance of a species considered mathematically". 

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Animal Ecology 1927

In 1927 English biologist and animal ecologist Charles Sutherland Elton published Animal Ecology in London at the press of Sidgwick & Jackson. It appeared as part of a series of textbooks in animal biology edited by Julian Huxley, who contributed a very informative introduction. In this book Elton integrated the concepts of food chains, pyramids of numbers, and the "niche" into a useful framework for ecology.

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1930 – 1940

Hundreds of Thousands of Wind Turbines Power Farms in the U.S. Circa 1930 – 1945

"In the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of thousands of electricity-producing wind turbines were built in the U.S. Just like wind turbines today, they had two or three thin blades, which rotated at high speeds to drive electrical generators. These wind turbines provided electricity to farms beyond the reach of power lines and were typically used to charge storage batteries, operate radios and power a few lights" (Michigan renewable energy, accessed 04-20-2009).

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Foundation of The Wilderness Society January 21, 1935

On January 21, 1935 Robert Marshall, chief of recreation and lands for the Forest Service, and Aldo Leopold, noted wildlife ecologist and later author of A Sand County Almanac, and Robert Sterling Yard, publicist for the National Park Service, and Benton MacKaye, the "Father of the Appalachian Trail", and Ernest Oberholtzer, Harvey Broome, Bernard Frank, and Harold C. Anderson founded The Wilderness Society.

"Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has led the conservation movement in wilderness protection, writing and passing the landmark Wilderness Act and winning lasting protection for 107 million acres of Wilderness, including 56 million acres of spectacular lands in Alaska, eight million acres of fragile desert lands in California and millions more throughout the nation" (The Wilderness Society website).

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DDT is Discovered, and Eventually Banned 1939 – 1972

During World War II, 1939, Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller of J. R. Geigy AG in Basel discovered the high efficiency of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) as a contact poison against several athropods.  Throughout the war DDT was used with great effect among both military and civilian populations to control mosquitoes spreading malaria and lice transmitting typhus, resulting in dramatic reductions in the incidence of both diseases.

In 1948 Müller received the Nobel Prize in Biology and Medicine for this discovery, which is thought to have saved the lives of over 21,000,000 people worldwide. After the war, DDT was made available for use as an agricultural insecticide, and its production and use skyrocketed with unexpected disastrous effects upon the environment. 

As a result of the 1962 book, Silent Spring, by American marine biologist and nature writer, Rachel Carson, the disastrous consequences of DDT began to be understood by politicians and the public, and DDT was eventually banned in the United States in 1972.

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1940 – 1950

The Birth of Ecosystem Ecology 1942

In 1942 ecologist Raymond L. Lindeman, a postdoctoral researcher under G. Evelyn Hutchinson at Yale, published "The Trophic-Dynamic Aspect of Ecology" in the journal Ecology XXIII, 399-418.  This work was characterized by Robert McIntosh as the "birth of ecosytem ecology". Lindeman described energy flow in ecosystems in a form amenable to productive abstract analysis.

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. (1991) no. 145.67.

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" A Sand County Almanac," Classic of the Environmental Movement 1949

In 1949 A Sand County Almanac by American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist Aldo Leopold was published in New York one year after Leopold's death. A combination of natural history, philosophy, and poetic writing, it informed the environmental movement. "It is perhaps best known for the following quote, which defines his land ethic: 'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.' The concept of a trophic cascade is put forth in the chapter Thinking Like a Mountain, wherein Leopold realizes that killing a predator wolf carries serious implications for the rest of the ecosystem" (Wikipedia article on Aldo Leopold, accessed 01-18-2209).

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1950 – 1960

The First Routine Real-Time Numerical Weather Forecasting December 1954

Starting in December 1954, the Royal Swedish Air Force Weather Service in Stockholm made weather forecasts for the North Atlantic region three times a week using the Swedish BESK computer running a barotropic model developed by the Institute of Meteorology at the University of Stockholm, associated with the eminent meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. These were the first routine real-time numerical weather forecasts.

Staff Members, Institute of Meterology, University of Stockholm. "Results of Forecasting with the Barotropic Model on an Electronic Computer (BESK)," Tellus 6 (1954): 139-149.

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Proving the Feasibility of Weather Prediction by Numerical Process 1956

In 1956 theoretical meterologist Norman A. Phillips of the National Weather Service, National Meteorological Center, Silver Spring, Maryland, published "The General Circulation of the Atmosphere: A Numerical Experiment," Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 82, no. 352 (1956) 123-164.  By 1955 Phillips completed a 2-layer, hemispheric, quasi-geostrophic computer model. "Despite its primitive nature, Phillips's model is now often regarded as the first AGCM" (P. N. Edwards, Atmospheric General Circulation Modeling: A Participatory History, accessed 06-20-2009)

"Norman Phillips was the first to show, with a simple General Circulation model, that weather prediction with numerical models was even feasible. The advent of numerical weather predictions in the 1950s also signaled the transformation of weather forecasting from a highly individualistic effort to one in which teams of experts developed complex computer programs, eventually for high-speed computers" (Franklin Institute, Franklin Laureate database, accessed 06-20-2009).

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1960 – 1970

Rachel Carson Issues "Silent Spring" 1962

In 1962 American biologist, writer, and ecologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in Boston through Houghton, Mifflin. This very carefully documented book convincingly proved the disastrous effects of DDT in the environment, and generated a storm of controversy. It was later credited with founding the "environmental movement" in the United States.

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Robert MacArthur & E.O. Wilson Issue "The Theory of "Island" Biogeography" 1967

In 1967 ecologist Robert MacArthur of Princeton and biologist E. O. Wilson of Harvard published The Theory of Island Biogeography through Princeton University Press. In this work they showed that the species richness of an area could be predicted in terms of such factors as habitat area, immigration rate and extinction rate.

"Island biogeography is a field within biogeography that attempts to establish and explain the factors that affect the species richness of natural communities. The theory was developed to explain species richness of actual islands. It has since been extended to mountains surrounded by deserts, lakes surrounded by dry land, forest fragments surrounded by human-altered landscapes. Now it is used in reference to any ecosystem surrounded by unlike ecosystems. The field was started in the 1960s by the ecologists Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson, who coined the term theory of island biogeography, as this theory attempted to predict the number of species that would exist on a newly created island.

"For biogeographical purposes, an 'island' is any area of suitable habitat surrounded by an expanse of unsuitable habitat. While this may be a traditional island—a mass of land surrounded by water—the term may also be applied to many untraditional 'islands', such as the peaks of mountains, isolated springs in the desert, or expanses of grassland surrounded by highways or housing tracts. Additionally, what is an island for one organism may not be an island for another: some organisms located on mountaintops may also be found in the valleys, while others may be restricted to the peaks" (Wikipedia article on Island biogeography, accessed 05-08-2009).

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Stewart Brand Issues "The Whole Earth Catalog": Google and Blogging before the Internet 1968

In Fall 1968 American writer and founder of organizations Stewart Brand of the Portola Institute, Menlo Park, California, published the first edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. Access to tools, with the goal of providing education and "access to tools" so a reader could "find his own inspiration, shape is own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested."

In his June 2005 Stanford University commencement address Steve Jobs compared The Whole Earth Catalog to Google. "When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation.... It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along. It was idealistic and overflowing with neat tools and great notions." During the commencement speech, Jobs also quoted the farewell message placed on the back cover of the 1974 edition of the catalog: 'Stay hungry. Stay foolish.' "

A similar comparison was made by Kevin Kelly in 2008:

"For this new countercultural movement, information was a precious commodity. In the ’60s, there was no Internet; no 500 cable channels. [The Whole Earth Catalog] was a great example of user-generated content, without advertising, before the Internet. Basically, Brand invented the blogosphere long before there was any such thing as a blog. ... No topic was too esoteric, no degree of enthusiasm too ardent, no amateur expertise too uncertified to be included.... This I am sure about: it is no coincidence that the Whole Earth Catalogs disappeared as soon as the web and blogs arrived. Everything the Whole Earth Catalogs did, the web does better" (Wikipedia article on Whole Earth Catalog, accessed 12-06-2013).

In December 2013 

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1970 – 1980

Crutzen Proves that Nitrous Oxide Impacts the Stratospheric Ozone Layer 1970

In 1970 Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen published "The influence of nitrogen oxides on the atmospheric ozone content,"  Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 96, 320-325.

"Crutzen pointed out that emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a stable, long-lived gas produced by soil bacteria, from the Earth's surface could affect the amount of nitric oxide (NO) in the stratosphere. Crutzen showed that nitrous oxide lives long enough to reach the stratosphere, where it is converted into NO. Crutzen then noted that increasing use of fertilizers might have led to an increase in nitrous oxide emissions over the natural background, which would in turn result in an increase in the amount of NO in the stratosphere. Thus human activity could have an impact on the stratospheric ozone layer" (Wikipedia article on Ozone depletion, accessed 11-26-2010).

In 1995 Crutzen shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Mario J. Molina and Frank S. Rowland "for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone".

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The Endangered Species Act of 1973 December 28, 1973

On December 28, 1973 President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973, designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern for conservation and the environment.

"The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species and also "the ecosystems upon which they depend." It encompasses plants and invertebrates as well as vertebrates. It does not expressly include fungi, which were widely considered to be plants in 1973, [but which are now considered more closely related to animals than plants.]

"ESA is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (which includes the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS). NOAA handles marine species, and the FWS has responsibility over freshwater fish and all other species. Species that occur in both habitats (e.g. sea turtles and Atlantic sturgeon) are jointly managed."

"Few species have become extinct while listed under the Endangered Species Act, and 93% in the northeastern US have had their population sizes increase or remain stable since being listed as threatened or endangered. As of August, 28, 2008, there are 1,327 species on the threatened and endangered lists. However, many species have become extinct while on the candidate list or otherwise under consideration for listing" (Wikipedia article on Endangered Species Act, accessed 06-13-2009).

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Rowland & Molina Suggest that CFCs Deplete the Ozone Layer 1974

In 1974 chemist Frank Sherwood Rowland of the University of California, Irvine and his post-doctoral student, Mario J. Molina, suggested that long-lived organic halogen compounds, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), could reach the stratosphere where they would be dissociated by UV light, releasing chlorine atoms.

"The Rowland-Molina hypothesis was strongly disputed by representatives of the aerosol and halocarbon industries. The Chair of the Board of DuPont was quoted as saying that ozone depletion theory is "a science fiction tale...a load of rubbish...utter nonsense". Robert Abplanalp, the President of Precision Valve Corporation (and inventor of the first practical aerosol spray can valve), wrote to the Chancellor of UC Irvine to complain about Rowland's public statements. Nevertheless, within three years most of the basic assumptions made by Rowland and Molina were confirmed by laboratory measurements and by direct observation in the stratosphere. The concentrations of the source gases (CFCs and related compounds) and the chlorine reservoir species (HCl and ClONO2) were measured throughout the stratosphere, and demonstrated that CFCs were indeed the major source of stratospheric chlorine, and that nearly all of the CFCs emitted would eventually reach the stratosphere. Even more convincing was the measurement, by James G. Anderson and collaborators, of chlorine monoxide (ClO) in the stratosphere. ClO is produced by the reaction of Cl with ozone — its observation thus demonstrated that Cl radicals not only were present in the stratosphere but also were actually involved in destroying ozone. McElroy and Wofsy extended the work of Rowland and Molina by showing that bromine atoms were even more effective catalysts for ozone loss than chlorine atoms and argued that the brominated organic compounds known as halons, widely used in fire extinguishers, were a potentially large source of stratospheric bromine. In 1976 the United States National Academy of Sciences released a report which concluded that the ozone depletion hypothesis was strongly supported by the scientific evidence. Scientists calculated that if CFC production continued to increase at the going rate of 10% per year until 1990 and then remain steady, CFCs would cause a global ozone loss of 5 to 7% by 1995, and a 30 to 50% loss by 2050. In response the United States, Canada and Norway banned the use of CFCs in aerosol spray cans in 1978" (Wikipedia article on Ozone depletion, accessed 11-26-2010).

In 1995 Rowland and Molina shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen for "for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone."

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1980 – 1990

Discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole May 16, 1985

On May 16, 1985 British geophysicists Joseph Farman, Brian G. Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, England, discovered the Antarctic ozone hole:

Farman, Gardiner & Shanklin, "Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal Cl0x/Nox interaction," Nature 315 (May 16, 1985) 207-210.

"The discovery of the Antarctic "ozone hole" by British Antarctic Survey scientists Farman, Gardiner and Shanklin . . . came as a shock to the scientific community, because the observed decline in polar ozone was far larger than anyone had anticipated. Satellite measurements showing massive depletion of ozone around the south pole were becoming available at the same time. However, these were initially rejected as unreasonable by data quality control algorithms (they were filtered out as errors since the values were unexpectedly low); the ozone hole was detected only in satellite data when the raw data was reprocessed following evidence of ozone depletion in in situ observations. When the software was rerun without the flags, the ozone hole was seen as far back as 1976" (Wikipedia article on Ozone depletion, accessed 11-26-2010).

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Soy Ink is Introduced 1987

Having searched for an acceptable ink formulation to replace oil-based printer's inks since 1979, in 1987 The American Newspaper Publishers Association in Reston, Virginia approved the use of soy ink, based on soybean oil. This environmentally friendly substitute for petroleum-based ink became widely used throughout the printing industry.

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1990 – 2000

The Web's First and Longest Continuously Running Blog 1993

"In 1993, Dr. Glen Barry invented blogging, defined as web based commentary, linking to other articles. The "Forest Protection Blog" (originally entitled "Gaia's Forest Conservation Archives") at http://forests.org/blog/ was also the first political blog, as Dr. Barry campaigned there for forest protection and documented these efforts as his Ph.D. project. The first blog initially used the gopher protocol, and has been on the web continuously since Jan. 1995, making it the web's first and longest continuously running blog. Prior to this, Dr. Barry provided forest conservation materials via email and bulletin board since 1989. The work has since evolved into the world's largest environmental portals at http://www.ecoearth.info/" (Wikipedia article on History of blogging timeline, accessed 04-21-2009).

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The Spread of Data-Driven Research From 1993 to 2013 1993 – 2013

On p. 16 of the printed edition of California Magazine 124, Winter 2013, there was an unsigned sidebar headlined "Data U." It contained a chart showing the spread of computing, or data-driven research, during the twenty years from 1993 to 2013, from a limited number of academic disciplines in 1993 to nearly every facet of university research.

According to the sidebar, in 1993 data-driven research was part of the following fields:

Artificial Intelligence: machine learning, natural language processing, vision, mathematical models of cognition and learning

Chemistry: chemical or biomolecular engineering

Computational Science: computational fluid mechanics, computational materials sciences

Earth and Planetary Science: climate modeling, seismology, geographic information systems

Marketing: online advertising, comsumer behavior

Physical Sciences: astronomy, particle physics, geophysics, space sciences

Signal Processing: compressed sensing, inverse imagining


By the end of 2013 data-driven research was pervasive not only in the fields listed above, but also in the following fields:

Biology: genomics, proteomics, econinformatics, computational cell biology

Economics: macroeconomic policy, taxation, labor economics, microeconomics, finance, real estate

Engineering: sensor networks (traffic control, energy-efficient buildings, brain-machine interface)

Environomental Sciences: deforestation, climate change, impacts of pollution

Humanities: digital humanities, archaeology, land use, cultural geography, cultural heritage

Law: privacy, security, forensics, drug/human/CBRNe trafficking, criminal justice, incarceration, judicial decision making, corporate law

Linguistics: historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics, language and cognition

Media: social media, mobile apps, human behavior

Medicine and Public Health: imaging, medical records, epidemiology, environmental conditions, health

Neuroscience: fMRI, multi-electrode recordings, theoretical neuroscience

Politcal Science & Public Policy: voter turn-out, elections, political behavior social welfare, poverty, youth policy, educational outcomes

Psychology: social psychology

Sociology & Demography: social change, stratification, social networks, population health, aging immigration, family

Urban Planning: transportation studies, urban environments

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Computers Have Not Caused a Reduction in Paper Usage or Printing 1999

In 1999 it required about 756,000,000 trees to produce the world’s annual paper supply.

“The UNESCO Statistical Handbook for 1999 estimates that paper production provides 1,510 sheets of paper per inhabitant of the world on average, although in fact the inhabitants of North America consume 11,916 sheets of paper each (24 reams), and inhabitants of the European Union consume 7,280 sheets of paper annually (15 reams), according to the ENST report. At least half of this paper is used in printers and copiers to produce office documents.”

Thus computers have not reduced paper usage; if anything, because nearly everyone who owns a personal computer also owns a printer, and more and more people acquire computers every year, the amount of printing being done continues to increase.

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2005 – 2010

"Last Child in the Woods" : Exploration of Nature Versus Exposure to Media in Childhood 2005

In 2005 American journalist and non-fiction writer Richard Louv published Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit DisorderIn this book Louv studied the relationship of children and the natural world in current and historical contexts, creating the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe possible negative consequences to individual health and the social fabric as children move indoors as a result of immersion in television, Internet, and computer games, and away from physical contact with the natural world – particularly unstructured, solitary experience.

Louv cited research pointing to attention disorders, obesity, a dampening of creativity and depression as problems associated with a nature-deficient childhood. He amassed information on the subject from practitioners of many disciplines to make his case, and is commonly credited with helping to inspire an international movement to reintroduce children to nature.

I first learned about Louv's book in a lecture by paleontologist, educator, and television broadcaster Scott D. Sampson held at Marin Academy in San Rafael, California on October 26, 2011. Sampson's lecture was the first in a science lecture series organized by my son, Max, in his junior year in high school. An extremely engaging speaker, Sampson uses the electronic media to promote the disengagement from media, and active exploration of nature, especially in childhood. He also promotes the use of social media in promoting scientific exploration of nature by the individual in each person's locality.

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The EPA Begins to Close its Scientific Libraries November 20, 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency seal

The Boston Globe reported on November 20, 2006 that the The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had begun to close its nationwide network of scientific libraries, effectively preventing EPA scientists and the public from accessing vast amounts of data and information on issues from toxicology to pollution. Several libraries were already dismantled, with their contents either destroyed or shipped to repositories where they were uncataloged and inaccessible.

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Demanding that the U.S. EPA Desist from Destroying its Libraries November 30, 2006

Stephen Johnson

On November 30, 2006 ranking members of congressional committees wrote to Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that the agency desist from destroying its libraries:

"Over the past 36 years, EPA's libraries have accumulated a vast and invaluable trove of public health and environmental information, including at least 504,000 books and reports, 3,500 journal titles, 25,000 maps, and 3.6 million information objects on microfilm, according to the report issued in 2004: Business Case for Information Services: EPA's Regional Libraries and Centers prepared for the Agency by Stratus Consulting. Each one of EPA's libraries also had information experts who helped EPA staff and the public access and use the Agency's library collection and information held in other library collections outside of the Agency. It now appears that EPA officials are dismantling what is likely one of our country's most comprehensive and accessible collections of environmental materials.
The press has reported on the concerns over the library reorganization plan voiced by EPA professional staff of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), 16 local union Presidents representing EPA employees, and the American Library Association. In response to our request of September 19, 2006, (attached), the Government Accountability Office has initiated an investigation of EPA's plan to close its libraries. Eighteen Senators sent a letter on November 3, 2006, to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee asking them
to direct EPA "to restore and maintain public access and onsite library collections and services at EPA's headquarters, regional, laboratory and specialized program libraries while the Agency solicits and considers public input on its plan to drastically cut its library budget and services"
(attached). Yet, despite the lack of Congressional approval and the concerns expressed over this plan, your Agency continues to move forward with dismantling the EPA libraries. It is imperative that the valuable government information maintained by EPA's libraries
be preserved. We ask that you please confirm in writing by no later than Monday, December 4, 2006, that the destruction or disposition of all library holdings immediately ceased upon the Agency's receipt of this letter and that all records of library holdings and dispersed materials are being maintained."

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The Film "Avatar" and Visions of Reality, Virtual and Otherwise December 10, 2009

Avatar, an American science fiction epic film written and directed by film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, and inventor James Cameron, and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang, was first released in London On December 10, 2009 by Twentieth Century Fox, headquartered in Century City, Los Angeles.

"The film is set in the year 2154 on Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system. Humans are engaged in mining Pandora's reserves of a precious mineral, while the Na'vi—a race of indigenous humanoids—resist the colonists' expansion, which threatens the continued existence of the Na'vi and the Pandoran ecosystem. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered bodies used by the film's characters to interact with the Na'vi.

"Avatar had been in development since 1994 by Cameron, who wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to Cameron, 'technology needed to catch up' with his vision of the film. In early 2006, Cameron developed the script, as well as the language and culture of the Na'vi. He said sequels would be possible if Avatar was successful, and in response to the film's success, confirmed that there will be another two.

"The film was released in traditional 2-D, as well as 3-D, RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, and IMAX 3D formats. Avatar is officially budgeted at $237 million; other estimates put the cost at $280–310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing. The film is being touted as a breakthrough in terms of filmmaking technology, for its development of 3D viewing and stereoscopic filmmaking with cameras that were specially designed for the film's production.

"Avatar premiered in London, UK on December 10, 2009, and was released on December 18, 2009 in the US and Canada to critical acclaim and commercial success. It grossed $27 million on its opening day domestically (in the United States and Canada) and $77 million domestically on its opening weekend. It opened two days earlier internationally and grossed $232 million worldwide in its first five days of international release. Within three weeks of its release, with a worldwide gross of over $1 billion, Avatar became the second highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, exceeded only by Cameron's previous film, Titanic" (Wikipedia article on Avatar (2009 film), accessed 01-16-2010).

♦ From my perspective the most significant aspect of Avatar, apart from its breathtaking computer graphic animation, and the fascinating artificial culture and language of the Na'vi, was the convincing portrayal of a total virtual reality experience, and the interplay between virtual reality, the reality of earth-born humans, some of whom animated the avatars, and the different reality of the Na'vi. The film presented visions of a reality that I could not have imagined before viewing. In its presentation of new views of reality it is reminiscent of the 1982 film, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott.

Another aspect of the film that was highly timely was its depiction of the struggle between destructive exploitation of natural resources versus living in harmony with nature.

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2010 – 2012

Paperbecause.com Makes the Case for Using Paper October 27, 2010

In response to the growth of digital information and the widely-felt desire to conserve natural resources, a website, paperbecause.com, advertised the practical value and ecological properties of paper:

"All over the world, people use paper every day. From eco-friendly food packaging to recyclable newspapers and magazines, to office paper, printing paper and tissue paper, most people can’t get through the day without it. Paper makes our world better. And when we make the right paper choices, we get the chance to return the favor.

"So, why is it that so many people seem to have turned on paper? Through misleading environmental claims like deforestation, excessive energy consumption and crowded landfill sites, it’s been the source of recent bad publicity. However, with a little more information, it soon becomes clear that paper isn’t the cause of environmental destruction. In fact, it just may offer a solution. So we decided to clear up the confusion and turn a page in the way people see paper. Below are a few key reasons why paper is good — and why the right paper is even better.  

"For starters, making paper doesn’t destroy forests. In fact, the forest products industry plants more than 1.7 million trees per day. When you think about it, it just makes sense. After all, if we don’t ensure a steady supply of raw materials, how can we continue to provide the products that so many people rely on to communicate and store information each and every day? That’s why, for every tree we harvest, several more are planted or naturally regenerated in its place. And it’s not just about sustaining paper. It’s also about sustaining forest life. Domtar harvests trees from forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI), ensuring environmental responsibility throughout the life cycle of our products. Domtar EarthChoice® papers are also supported by the Rainforest Alliance and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, and we’re proud to play a part in ensuring our forests — and the wildlife within them — are well taken care of, for years to come.  

"Paper is portable, secure, consistent and permanent. It’s 100% recyclable. And the people who make it have made great strides in reducing overall energy consumption and protecting natural forests. Maybe that’s why there are nearly 750 million acres of forests in the U.S. — about the same as 100 years ago. Additionally, annual net growth of U.S. forests is 36 percent higher than the volume of annual tree removals, and total forest cover in the U.S. and Canada has basically remained the same from 1990 to 2005.1 By planting new seedlings, we help rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and replace it with fresh oxygen. As young trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. And as a wood-based product, paper continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. Planting new trees can also combat global warming. For every ton of wood a forest produces, it removes 1.47 tons of CO2 from the air and replaces it with 1.07 ton of oxygen.2

"Like most industrial conversion processes, making paper does consume a lot of energy. However, Domtar and many other pulp and paper companies have made a serious commitment to reduced energy consumption and energy efficiency. In 2009, Domtar used an average of 78% renewable energy at its mill operations. Burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, oil and coal is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the pulp and paper industry largely uses renewable energy sources that are considered carbon neutral to generate steam and electricity. By making paper using more renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency, Domtar mills continue to reduce their carbon footprint.  

"Paper has often been accused of taking up excessive landfill space. However, thanks to the success of neighborhood curbside recycling programs, increased community awareness and individual activism, recycling rates are now at an all-time high. In 2009, over 63 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling.3 To put it in perspective, the recovery rate for metal is 36 percent; glass is 22 percent; and plastic is only 7 percent" (http://www.paperbecause.com/Paper-is-Sustainable/Paper-is-Not-Bad, accessed 10-27-2010).

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Of the Seventy Online Databases that "Define Our Planet", Many are Known Only to Specialists December 3, 2010

As part of a description of a potential costly (1 billion euros) European scheme to simulate the entire planet earth, MIT's Technology Review published an article listing and describing the "The 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet." These databases cover climate, health, finance, economics, traffic, and other topics. Only a few, such as the Wikipedia, Google Earth, the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, and Wolfram Alpha, are widely known to generalists, such as the author of From Cave Paintings to the Internet.

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The Environmental Impacts of eBooks and eBook Readers March 2011

The Green Press Initiative issued a synthesis of various reports on The Environmental Impacts of eBooks and eBook Readers:

"Since the data suggests that sales of E-books are likely to increase while sales of printed books are likely to decrease, it is logical to question the environmental implications of this transition. In 2008 Green Press Initiative and the Book Industry Study Group commissioned a report on the environmental impacts of the U.S. book industry which included a lifecycle analysis of printed books. That report concluded that in 2006 the U.S. book industry consumed approximately 30 million trees and had a carbon footprint equivalent to 12.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 8.85 pounds per book sold.

"Determining the environmental impacts of an E-book presents a challenge that does not exist in estimating the impacts of a paper book. That challenge is the fact that user behavior will significantly influence the impact of an e-book. This is due to the fact that the manufacturing of the E-reader device accounts for the vast majority of an E-books environmental impact. Because of this, on a per book basis, a reader who reads 100 books on an e-reader will have almost 1/100th of the impact of someone who reads only one book on the same device. Additionally, two readers who each read the same number of books per year, can have a very different per-book environmental impact if one buys a new E-reader every year while the other keeps his for four years before replacing it. Because of the impact that user behavior can have on the environmental impact of E-books, any analysis will either have to make assumptions about the behavior of a “typical” reader of E-books, or else identify a break-even point in terms of the number of books that must be read on an E-reader to offset the environmental impacts of a corresponding number of paper books. However even this can be confused by the fact that it is not clear that reading one E-book offsets one paper book. For example, the ability to instantly download any book at any time may encourage E-reader owners to read more books in which case each e-book read would not necessarily correspond to a printed book that would have been read. Additionally someone who buys a printed book and later lends it to a friend to read would in effect halve the environmental impact of reading that book. As such any analysis should strive to account for this and determine a break-even point in terms of “printed books offset” rather than E-books read. Additional complexity is added by the fact that most E-readers can be used for a variety of tasks other than reading books. For example, most can read newspapers and magazines in addition to books and some E-readers can also read blogs and surf the internet. Tablet computers can allow a user to check e-mail, play games, view photos and videos, listen to music and surf the internet in addition to other things. Thus for the owner of a Tablet computer, who only spends 10% of his time using the tablet to read books, it would seem reasonable to assume that only 10% of the manufacturing impact of the tablet should be counted towards the impact of that users E-books. . . .

"As the number of printed books that the E-reader offsets increases, so do the benefits of that E-reader. At some point these gains offset the impact of manufacturing and using the E-reader. This “breakeven point” will be different for different metrics of environmental performance but for most it is likely somewhere between 30 and 70 printed books that are offset over the lifetime of the E-reader. For greenhouse gas emissions this number is probably between 20 and 35 books while for measures of human health impacts the number is probably closer to 70 books. In assessing the impact of an E-reader the idea of printed books offset must be carefully considered. As mentioned above, if the owner of an E-reader reads more books because of the ease and convenience of downloading a new title, then every book read on the device does not necessarily correspond to a printed book that is offset. Additionally the numbers in the figure above are based on a very simple comparison that is not likely to be replicated in the real world. The assumption is that the reader would either purchase a new printed book once and not share it with anyone else or that the reader would read the books on an E-reader and only use the E-reader for reading books. If a person would normally share a printed book with others, buy some used printed books, or borrow many of the printed books from the library then the numbers would need to be adjusted to account for that. Additionally, if the E-reader is used for other activities such as watching video, browsing the internet, checking email, or reading magazines and newspapers, it is unfair to assign the full impacts of producing the E-reader to E-books. More research is needed on typical user behavior in terms of time spent reading E-books verses other activities on E-readers and Tablet computers in order to make a more accurate comparison. If the trend of the iPad stealing market share from the Kindle continues, it seems likely that users will spend more time on the other activates that tablets like the iPad are optimized for. Additionally, if someone already owns a tablet computer or an E-reader, the marginal impact of downloading and reading an additional book is quite small. Thus for someone who already owns a device capable of reading E-books, the best choice from an environmental perspective would likely be to read a new book on that device."

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Koomey’s Law of Electrical Efficiency in Computing March 2011

Energy and environmental scientist Jonathan Koomey of Stanford University, and Stephen Berard, Maria Sanchez, and Henry Wong published “Implications of Historical Trends in the Electrical Efficiency of Computing” Annals of the History of Computing, 33, no. 3, 46-54. This historical paper was highly unusual for its enunciation of a predictive trend in computing technology labeled by the press as “Koomey’s Law.”

“Koomey’s law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. The number of computations per joule of energy dissipated has been doubling approximately every 1.57 years. This trend has been remarkably stable since the 1950s (R2 of over 98%) and has actually been somewhat faster than Moore’s law. Jon Koomey articulated the trend as follows: ‘at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every year and a half.’

Because of Koomey’s law, the amount of battery needed for a fixed computing load will fall by factor of 100 every decade. As computing devices become smaller and more mobile, this trend may be even more important than improvements in raw processing power for many applications. Furthermore, energy costs are becoming an increasingly important determinant of the economics of data centers, further increasing the importance of Koomey’s law” (Wikipedia article on Koomey's Law accessed 11-19-2011).

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2012 – 2016

Destruction of Canadian Environmental Libraries January 2014

On January 4, 2014 Boing Boing blogger Cory Doctorow reported:

"Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

"Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.

"Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.

"An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age. Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas.

"The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.

For further information see "What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries? "by Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee, December 23, 2013.

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