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Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War Hardcover – May 10, 2017

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Editorial Reviews


"a very pacey and entertaining read. Munns'enthusiasm for the idea of environmental biology and his sympathy for the designers of these buildings is infectious. Moreover, anyone invested in the history of science's spatial turn will be grateful to have this book as a resource."
 Dominic Berry, London School of Economics

Engineering the Environment offers a lively history of a mostly forgotten but ultimately fascinating scientific instrument. This compelling story of phytotrons and the dreams and disappointments of the technologist-biologists who built them brings new insights and much-needed diversity to the historiography of twentieth-century biology."Helen Anne Curry, University of Cambridge.

About the Author

David P. D. Munns is associate professor of history at John Jay College, City University of New York. He is the author of A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Pittsburgh Press; 1st edition (May 10, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 082294474X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0822944744
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.5 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    5.0 out of 5 stars 1 rating

About the author

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David Peter Dell Munns is perhaps the worst Australian he knows. Although raised on an outback sheep station and attending Agricultural High School in Australia's 'Country Music Capitol,' he denied his heritage by fleeing to the elitist National University in Canberra, majoring in physics and modern history. He seriously avoided ever fulfilling the great Australian dream of working for B.H.P. and owning a house on a quarter acre block. Few lives are as alien to the Australian psyche, however, as the Academic Life, where he has stayed ever since 1990; taking his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 2002. He worked at Drexel University in Philadelphia teaching sixteen courses per year, starting fights in bars over which technology was the world's most important, and being declared "too sexy for shirts, scales, and students" by the student newspaper. He moved to Imperial College London between 2006 and 2009, and took full advantage of the great academic debates curiously always occurring in pubs. Since 2009, he serves the public of New York City proudly at John Jay College, CUNY, promoting curiosity, scholarship, and enthusiasm among his students.

Munns has varied research interests and has published on such diverse topics as the origins of Copernicus' heliocentric theory, the history and community of radio astronomy, the life and death of research into the biological effects of climate change in Phytotrons, and Peter Pan. He has taught courses on practically everything from Benjamin Franklin, to the History of Science and Technology, to European History, to the Atomic Bomb, to Medieval Natural Philosophy using Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, to just plain World History, 500AD to now.

Rounding out his 'American' education have been thirty-one visited U.S. States, and going regularly to Europe.

He lives and works in New York City.

Want to know what the ALGATRON was? go to:

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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 29, 2017