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  • The Machine in Neptune’s Garden: Historical Perspectives on Technology and the Marine Environment
  • Gordon E. Hogg
The Machine in Neptune’s Garden: Historical Perspectives on Technology and the Marine Environment. Edited by Helen M. Rozwadowski and David K. van Keuren. Sagamore Beach, Mass.: Science History Publications/USA, 2004. ISBN 0-88135-372-8. Photographs. Figures. Notes. Index. Pp. xxviii, 371. $49.95.

The engaging essays that constitute this work were first presented as papers at the third Matthew Fontaine Maury Workshop, convened in June 2001. Gary E. Weir, the co-founder with David K. van Keuren in 1997 of the first Maury gathering, pointedly honoring the U.S. Navy's "patron saint" of oceanography, contributes to this volume, which expands on his own excellent An Ocean in Common (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001). The publication of the Maury III proceedings as The Machine in Neptune's Garden heralds a broad range of new research in the ocean sciences while it also, sadly, notes the premature deaths of two key players in this vibrant community: the book's dedicatee, Philip F. ("Fritz") Rehbock, and editor-contributor David van Keuren.

Within the last two years, reports from such estimable bodies as the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy have raised public awareness—with an attendant level of urgency, even alarm—of the very real fragility of American territorial waters and, by extension, the oceans beyond. Though necessarily addressing the technological more than the environmental, the contributions to The Machine in Neptune's Garden nonetheless overlap in key areas, and certainly—as the subtitle promises—lend an important perspective on the increasing sophistication of human interaction with the world's oceans.

The book's title is derived from Leo Marx's pivotal work, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York: [End Page 287] Oxford University Press, 1964), and its introduction by Keith R. Benson, Helen Rozwadowski, and David van Keuren proffers the thesis, collectively bolstered by the included authors' wide variety of study and research, that the cultivated "garden" of oceanographic knowledge, primarily and increasingly, has had technology to thank for its rich yield. Michael S. Reidy and Eric L. Mills write on nineteenth-century investigations of the oceans' tides and patterns of circulation through the application of unprecedented measuring devices and newly derived theories, setting the stage for their colleagues' ensuing essays on twentieth-century developments in ocean science, including Gregory T. Cushman's history of the international investigations of El Niño from the 1950s into the 1980s, Christine Keiner's study of the nearly contemporaneous project for the colossal Chesapeake Bay Hydraulic Model, David van Keuren's detailed tracing of the interplay of science and industry in the development and applications of ocean floor drilling, and Helen Rozwadowski's "might-have-been" account of the industrial/scientific dreams that fostered the promise of what the creation of "Scripps Island" could have brought to the ocean science community—and the realities that prevailed instead.

The intersections of marine and military sciences inform contributions such as Gary Weir's profile of naval oceanographer Columbus O'Donnell Iselin, and Kathleen Broome Williams's elucidation of the life and work of the pioneering "cultural interpreter" (Gary Weir's apt term) Mary Sears, who brought her scientific specialty to the aid of Allied amphibious operations in World War II. The early consideration by the scientific and military community of the atomic bomb as a "wonderful oceanographic tool" before their gradual subsequent understanding of the hazards of radiation makes for sometimes hair-raising reading in the essay by Ronald Rainger, and Vera Schwach's account of Norwegian fisheries acoustics between 1935 and 1960 offers the seeming twist of civilian commerce benefiting from wartime experience with Asdic antisubmarine detection equipment adapted for the peacetime "hunting" of fish. As this book appeared, it dovetailed, coincidentally, with an updating analogue evincing the continuing cooperative work in these fields: a July 2004 article in International Defense Review reporting on various navies and defense research establishments engaged in studies on the harmful effects of active sonars on marine mammals. The acknowledgements and references...


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pp. 287-288
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Open Access
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Archived 2010
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