Assistant Professor of History
PhD, Princeton, 2009
History of science; modern Britain and the British Empire; exploration; marine environmental history
Office Hours: summer - no office hours, On leave 2013-14
Office: 127 Benson Hall
Alistair Sponsel is a historian of modern science with special interest in the history of geographical exploration, the environmental and life sciences, the physical and earth sciences, and Britain and the British Empire. Much of his research examines how travel and expeditions have shaped the production of scientific knowledge. He is interested in the problems and opportunities that have attended the study of remote or fleeting phenomena, and therefore in the histories of observation and experiment, as well as in the status of theory and theorizing in modern science. He recently completed a book manuscript on Darwin's theory of coral reef formation. Sponsel has been named the 2013 Ritter Fellow by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Ritter Memorial Fellowship is awarded biennially to a historian, scientist, or other scholar whose research enlarges and deepens understanding of the history of the earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences.
Alistair received his PhD in history of science from Princeton University in 2009. He comes to Vanderbilt from Harvard University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in the Department of the History of Science and manager of the U.S. office of the Darwin Correspondence Project.
In 2012-13 he is teaching the undergraduate courses "Science and Empire" and "The Darwinian Revolution" and a graduate seminar on environmental history.