Seeing the Oceans in the Shadow of Bergen Values

Published in Isis 105:2 (2014), 352-363. Click here.


Although oceanographers such as Roger Revelle are typically associated with key indicators of anthropogenic change, he and other scientists at midcentury had very different scientific priorities and ways of seeing the oceans. How can we join the narrative of the triumph of mathematical, dynamic oceanography with the environmental narrative? Dynamic methods entailed a broad set of values that touched the professional lives of marine scientists in a variety of disciplines all over the world, for better or for worse. The present essay highlights three aspects of “Bergen values” in need of greater exploration by scholars. First, how did the dominance of Scandinavian outlooks influence scientific questions across the broad spectrum of oceanography? Second, did oceanographers’ particular means of making the oceans legible through instrumentation challenge their ability to perceive the oceans differently? Third, given the immense quantity of data, was the historical legacy of the dynamic oceanographers more descriptive than they imagined?

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