The Floral Archive: Climate, Empire, and the Problem of Scale
Among all the sophisticated new tools introduced in the nineteenth century for scaling the climate—for understanding the weather of the here-and-now in relation to large-scale, long-term processes—none proved quite as effective as nature’s own climatic indicators: plants. The achievement of botanist Anton Kerner von Marilaun (1831-1898) was to grasp that radical climatic shifts might be a part of the Earth’s future as well as its past, and to offer his contemporaries, scientist and non-scientist alike, the tools to imagine how familiar living things might react to a more or less radical shift in climate.
Deborah R. Coen is a professor of history and chair of the Program in History of Science and Medicine at Yale University, as well as a member of the steering committee of Yale's Environmental Humanities Program. Her research interests include the history of the physical and environmental sciences and the intellectual and cultural history of modern central Europe. She is the author, most recently, of Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale (2018), and The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter (2013).