In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an innovative three-dimensional graphical technique was introduced into biological oceanography and ecology, where it spread rapidly. Used to improve scientists' understanding of the importance of scale within oceanic ecosystems, this influential diagram addressed biological scales from phytoplankton to fish, physical scales from diurnal tides to ocean currents, and temporal scales from hours to ice ages. Yet the Stommel Diagram (named for physical oceanographer Henry Stommel, who created it in 1963) had not been devised to aid ecological investigations. Rather, Stommel intended it to help plan large-scale research programs in physical oceanography, particularly as Cold War research funding enabled a dramatic expansion of physical oceanography in the 1960s. Marine ecologists utilized the Stommel Diagram to enhance research on biological production in ocean environments, a key concern by the 1970s amid growing alarm about overfishing and ocean pollution. Before the end of the twentieth century, the diagram had become a significant tool within the discipline of ecology. Tracing the path that Stommel's graphical techniques traveled from the physical to the biological environmental sciences reveals a great deal about practices in these distinct research communities and their relative professional and institutional standings in the Cold War era. Crucial to appreciating the course of that path is an understanding of the divergent intellectual and social contexts of the physical versus the biological environmental sciences.
Graphical Methods and Cold War Scientific Practice: The Stommel Diagram's Intriguing Journey from the Physical to the Biological Environmental Sciences
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Tiffany C. Vance, Ronald E. Doel; Graphical Methods and Cold War Scientific Practice: The Stommel Diagram's Intriguing Journey from the Physical to the Biological Environmental Sciences. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 February 2010; 40 (1): 1–47. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2010.40.1.1
Download citation file: