Article ID: CBB001450342

Wild Men In and Out of Science: Finding a Place in the Disciplinary Borderlands of Arctic Canada and Greenland (2014)


This essay compares the early twentieth-century Arctic experiences of the artist-naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton (1860--1946) in Canada and the explorer-geologist Lauge Koch (1892--1964) in Greenland during a time of transition in the history of scientific exploration. It focuses on the extraordinary careers of two uneasy contributors to this transition, from both inside and outside of the scientific profession. Seton's and Koch's careers serve as fault-lines marking important disputes over the production and construction of knowledge, and conceptions of scientific truth. Seton, internationally famous author of the `realistic' animal stories Wild Animals I Have Known (1898), endured public criticism as a `nature-faker' who anthropomorphized his animal subjects unduly. Intent on earning recognition as a modern field scientist, he travelled to Canada's Barren Grounds in 1907 to stake new claims to scientific knowledge and field methods. Koch joined the legendary Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen's Second Thule Expedition (1916--1918) before leading Denmark's Jubilee expedition to North Greenland (1920--1923). He returned to Denmark a national hero whose further expeditions during the 1930s transformed Arctic geological fieldwork, but not without very public challenges from the Danish scientific community. The problems encountered by Seton and Koch in their efforts to establish their field practices in the disciplinary borderlands between traditional natural history and modern ecology and geology, respectively, offer insights, over several generations, into the historical transition from the older Romantic lore of the heroic individual explorer to modern infrastructures and practices. Their responses highlight larger fissures in twentieth-century reconceptions of the Arctic, of nature, and of science at large.


Description Compares the early 20th-century Arctic experiences of the artist-naturalist Ernest Seton in Canada and the explorer-geologist Lauge Koch in Greenland.

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Article Doel, Ronald E.; Urban, Wråkberg; Zeller, Suzanne (2014) Science, Environment, and the New Arctic. Journal of Historical Geography (p. 2). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Cronon, William
Staley, Richard A.
Loo, Tina
Keller, Richard C.
IAnshin, Aleksandr Leonidovich
Mikanovskij, Evgenij Evgenjevič
Journal of Medical Biography
Journal for Maritime Research: Britian, the Sea and Global History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Canadian Journal of History
Journal of Historical Geography
American Historical Review
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Yale University Press
Museum Tusculanum Press
University of Calgary Press
Travel; exploration
Scientific expeditions
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Wegener, Alfred Lothar
Koettlitz, Reginald
Bernier, J. E.
Franklin, John
Wager, Lawrence Rickard
Hall, Charles Francis
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
21st century
18th century
20th century, late
Arctic regions
United States
Great Britain
International Geophysical Year (IGY)

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