Cover: Neptune’s Laboratory: Fantasy, Fear, and Science at Sea, from Harvard University PressCover: Neptune’s Laboratory in HARDCOVER

Neptune’s Laboratory

Fantasy, Fear, and Science at Sea

Product Details


$43.00 • £37.95 • €39.95

ISBN 9780674972018

Publication Date: 11/19/2019


256 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

15 photos


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In his entertaining, readable history of marine science, [Adler] shows how humanity’s fundamental ignorance about the sea has often fed fantastical ideas of it as savior, battlefield, playground, storehouse, angry beast or hapless victim… Left me with a sense of urgency about the ocean’s perilous state… Enlightening.—Boris Worm, Nature

A social and cultural history of how Western societies have, over the last two hundred years, conceptualized the oceans as a place that can be scientifically understood… Thoughtful and well conceived. It communicates a changing understanding and imagining of the oceans… While of obvious interest to scholars of the ‘oceanic turn,’ it should also find a much broader audience among those interested in how the public interacts with science and with the environment, and how these interests feed and are fed by political goals and fears.—Penelope K. Hardy, British Journal for the History of Science

An engaging new book about the history of humanity’s relationship with, and improving understanding of, the ocean… Neptune’s Laboratory is not only about the history of modern marine science but also about how we perceive the ocean—and how that perception has changed over time.—David Shiffman, Issues in Science and Technology

The best narrative of oceanography’s history that I have ever read, Neptune’s Laboratory elucidates humanity’s relationship with the ocean. Compelling, imaginative, and exceptionally well researched, this book will make a difference in the world by offering insight into the fears and fantasies that forged our understandings of the ocean in the past and how, against mounting environmental challenges, they continue to shape our courses of action.—Helen Rozwadowski, author of Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

Neptune’s Laboratory is a major accomplishment. Adler contributes penetrating new insights into marine research and technology from the last two centuries, and examines how that scholarship has shaped scientists’ hopes and fears for the future. The result is a sophisticated, evocative, and highly original approach to subject matter that challenges easy analysis.—Eric Mills, author of The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet: How the Study of Ocean Currents Became a Science

This book presents a remarkable account of the imagined futures that scientists, politicians, explorers, and mariners built around marine environments over two centuries. Taking us through the history of marine sciences from the nineteenth century to the present, Adler argues for a picture of oceanography that takes seriously practice, context, and a profound human engagement with the oceans. Neptune’s Laboratory will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the future.—Simon Werrett, author of Thrifty Science: Making the Most of Materials in the History of Experiment

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