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Nelson Institute director to lead environmental history society

May 3, 2011 By Tom Sinclair

The American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) has chosen University of Wisconsin–Madison historian of science Gregg Mitman as its next president.

Mitman is interim director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and William Coleman Professor of History of Science and Professor of Medical History and Science & Technology Studies. He will be the third UW–Madison professor to lead the ASEH since its inception in 1977.

“There’s probably no other institution in North America with UW–Madison’s breadth and depth of scholars, both faculty and graduate students, doing work in environmental history,” says Mitman.

His colleagues Nancy Langston and William Cronon are both past presidents of the ASEH. Langston, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology and environmental studies, is incoming editor of the association’s journal, Environmental History. Cronon, the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, is president-elect of the American Historical Association.

Mitman’s teaching and research interests focus on how changing scientific ideas, cultural values, and economic and political interests have shaped the interactions and relationships between people and environments over time. He was the founding director of the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment, which now counts more than 25 faculty and 70 graduate student affiliates from across the campus less than four years after its creation.

ASEH, which promotes teaching and scholarship on the history of human interaction with the rest of the natural world, will hold its 2012 annual meeting in Madison next March. Its approximately 1,500 members include geographers, anthropologists, ethnographers, and journalists as well as historians.

Mitman’s two-year term as president begins in 2013. He will serve as president-elect until then.