Jacob Darwin Hamblin is an American historian who is a professor at Oregon State University. He writes and speaks about international dimensions of science, technology, and the environment, especially related to nuclear issues, ecology, oceans, and climate.
Hamblin’s 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 Times, Science, and Salon, and his peer-reviewed essays have appeared in Diplomatic History, Isis, Environmental History, Technology & Culture, and many other academic journals. He is the recipient of 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’s most recent book is The Wretched Atom: America’s Global Gamble with Peaceful Nuclear Technology (Oxford, 2021). It offers a groundbreaking narrative of how the United States offered the promise of nuclear technology to the developing world and its gamble that other nations would use it for peaceful purposes.
He is also the author of the prizewinning book Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (Oxford, 2013), which 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. An earlier book was Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (Rutgers, 2008), the first international history of one of the least-understood environmental controversies of the twentieth century. Hamblin’s first book, Oceanographers and the Cold War (Washington, 2005) explored the reasons for the explosive growth of the marine sciences after World War II.
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).
Current Research Projects
Hamblin is the PI on the OSU 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.