History Department
History Department

Megan Raby wins History of Science Society’s Philip J. Pauly Prize for best first book on the history of Science in the Americas

Tue, August 20, 2019
Megan Raby wins History of Science Society’s Philip J. Pauly Prize for best first book on the history of Science in the Americas

Congratulations to Dr. Megan Raby on being awarded the History of Science Society’s Philip J. Pauly Prize for best first book on the history of Science in the Americas! Her book, American Tropics: The Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), explores the relationship between the history of field ecology, the expansion of U.S. hegemony in the circum-Caribbean during the 20th century, and the emergence of the modern concept of biodiversity. The prize ceremony was held on July 25 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Below is the prize citation.

Remarked History Chair Dr. Jacqueline Jones, “Congratulations on these honors, Megan! I shall just note that Megan’s scholarly article, ‘Ark and Archive: Making a Place for Long-term Research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama,' was awarded the History of Science Society’s Price/Webster Prize for the best article published in Isis, the Journal of the History of Science Society."

The book has also been heralded by environmental historian Dr. Paul Sutter, University of Colorado Boulder, as "not only the best book we have on the scientific reinvention of ‘the tropics’ across the twentieth century, but it is also a tour de force demonstration of how the ideal of biodiversity emerged from place-based field practices. This is a history that matters to the future of tropical science and conservation."

"Raby’s study contributes a crucial and expansive narrative of biological connections and a politically informed evolution of ideas," writes Environmental History. "Like the best histories, her work opens avenues for further research on an important and timely subject."

Kudos to Dr. Raby on this wonderful recognition!

Citation: Philip J. Pauly Prize
for the best first book on the history of science in the Americas

Megan Raby’s book American Tropics: The Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science stands as a thought-provoking, archivally-robust work of immense value to historians working at the intersection of science, professionalization, epistemology, empire, and the environment. Raby focuses on an influential cluster of U.S.-sponsored ecological research stations that took root in the circum-Caribbean neocolonies of Jamaica, Panama, Cuba, and other locales rendered accessible by imperial transportation and patronage networks during the early twentieth century. American Tropics traces the role of U.S. scientists in shaping tropical biology, first as a venue for basic biological research, and later as a much more applied arena for biodiversity studies, tropical conservation, and sustainable global development. Juxtaposed against this set of shifting paradigms and scientific challenges—including that of extending specific place-based investigations into general knowledge— is the political legacy of colonialism. Even today, tropical biology remains a discipline dominated by outsiders. As Raby persuasively concludes, “Tropical stations must become sites for creating not only knowledge of biodiversity but also new, equitable local and international scientific relations. The future of research in the tropics demands a full recognition of its history.” We applaud Megan Raby’s historical analysis, and are very pleased to recognize American Tropics with the second annual Philip J. Paul Prize for the best first book on the history of American science.  

See also:

- Dr. Raby's home page
- "The Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity" Podcast, on 15 Minute History
- "Enclaves of Science, Outposts of Empire," on Not Even Past
- "The Empire of the Dandelion: Environmental History in Al Crosby’s Footsteps" on Not Even Past

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