Jacob Darwin Hamblin is an American historian who is a professor at Oregon State University. He writes about the history and politics of science, technology, and environmental issues. He was an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the 1990s. As an exchange student at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, England, he took courses on British science and decided to pursue graduate work in the history of science. He earned a PhD at UCSB (2001) writing about the political dimensions of American and Soviet work on plate tectonics and oceanography. After a postdoctoral year in Paris at the Centre Alexandre Koyré, he taught for four years at California State University Long Beach and then three years at Clemson University before joining the faculty of Oregon State in 2009.

Hamblin’s research focuses on international dimensions of the earth sciences and nuclear issues. His books have drawn from archival research in several countries, primarily in North America and Europe. His main research languages are English and French. His writing has appeared in the New York TimesScienceSalon, and many publications devoted to the history of science, technology, and the natural world. He is the recipient the American Historical Association’s Birdsall Prize (for best book in military or strategic history) and the History of Science Society’s Davis Prize (for best book for a general audience).

Hamblin has chaired book and essay prize committees for the History of Science Society, American Society for Environmental History, and Society for History of Technology. He created H-Environment Roundtable Reviews and edited more than thirty of them from 2010 to 2015. He commissioned and edited essay reviews for Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences from 2011 to 2015, and has served as advisory editor for that journal continuously since 2011. He was advisory editor of Isis (2009-2011), was on the advisory board of Environmental History (2013-2018), and was a founding editorial board member of Modern American History (2016-2019). He is the founding “Environment and the Life Sciences” subject editor for Journal of the History of Biology (2020-present), and serves on the editorial board of Oregon State University Press (2020-present).

Hamblin’s first book, Oceanographers and the Cold War (2005) explored the reasons for the explosive growth of the marine sciences after World War II. A second monograph, Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (2008) was the first international history of one of the least-understood environmental controversies of the twentieth century. Another book, Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (2013) challenged us to consider how much our views of global environmental change come from collaboration between scientists and the military as they planned to fight, and to survive, a third world war.

Current Research Projects

Hamblin’s current book is The Wretched Atom: America’s Global Gamble with Peaceful Nuclear Technology (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2021). It examines efforts by the United States and other countries to promote atomic energy programs in the so-called developing world in the decades after World War II.

In addition, Hamblin is the PI on the Downwinders Project, working with colleague Linda Richards. We are developing archival collections, conducting oral histories, and doing research on the history of radiation and dose reconstruction related to cancer victims and nuclear sites. More on that here.


You can email him here, visit his university’s faculty page, or find him on twitter: @jdhamblin