Michael Egan is McMaster University’s Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellow for 2014-2015. His teaching and research interests revolve around the histories of science, technology, environment, and the future.
Teaching: Dr. Egan’s courses typically investigate how science, technology, and society have interacted across time and place, putting particular emphasis on society's influence on the production and consumption of knowledge. He was the recipient of the 2012 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award, designed to foster the connection between research and teaching by engaging undergraduate students in research. During the tenure of the Paul R. MacPherson Teaching Fellowship, Dr. Egan will devote time to developing a suite of digital humanities skills that he plans to integrate throughout his undergraduate curriculum. You can read more about his plans here. His favourite courses: HIST 2EE3: Science and Technology in World History; HIST 3UA3: The History of the Future; and HIST 3U03: The Social History of Truth. In January 2015, he will introduce HIST 2EH3: The Social History of Cancer, a new course in keeping with emerging research interests in the history of toxins and public health (see also HIST 1EE3: Historical Roots of Contemporary Issues, which he teaches on the toxic century).
Research: Dr. Egan’s research agenda focuses on the relationship between science and the environment. He is the author of Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival: The Remaking of American Environmentalism (MIT Press, 2007), and co-editor (with Jeff Crane) Natural Protest: Essays on the History of American Environmentalism (Routledge, 2008). He has also published widely in environmental history and on the environmental justice movement.
Dr. Egan is currently engaged in two book-length research projects. The first is a global history of mercury pollution, tentatively titled "Modern Alchemy: Science, Policy, and Mercury Pollution in the Toxic Century.” This project blends the history of toxicology and international environmental politics to consider the struggle for epistemic clarity in and between science and policymaking. His second project, titled "The History of Now: Decoding Environmental Sustainability," traces the political and intellectual histories of the sustainability idea as a means of understanding the nature and context of sustainable development. His broader interests include science activism and scientists' roles in producing a vernacular science to explain the environmental crisis. This ongoing work proposes to illuminate a critical and under-appreciated angle of the history of environmentalism while also highlighting one of the most significant developments in the history of science since World War II. Finally, he is starting work on a new and diverse project that examines the bicycle in environmental history.
In addition to his work in the History Department, Dr. Egan is also a faculty supervisor in the Health Policy Ph.D. program, and a former instructor in the Arts & Science program, where he offered a course on technology and society. Beyond McMaster, he is the director of the Sustainable Future History Project, a cabal of early-career scholars and professionals across North America, trained in environmental history or some related field and concerned about contemporary environmental issues. In that context, he is the series editor of “History for a Sustainable Future,” a new book series with the MIT Press, which solicits short monographs on the history of contemporary environmental problems. He also blogs about teaching and research at EganHistory.com. You can also find him on Twitter: @EganHistory.