Thesis ID: CBB436064562

The Aurochs Through Time: A History of Integrating Timescales and Disciplines in the Study of the Ancestral Cow (2023)


This thesis provides a biographical account of the aurochs, the wild and extinct ancestor to cattle, through the lens of time. It argues that the aurochs, as a scientific object that spans multiple time scales and has been studied through various disciplinary lenses, is best understood by foregrounding its temporality as a processual entity – one that is in a state of constant change and transformation. Since the nineteenth century, the aurochs has been seen as a representative of different times: a signifier of a past wilderness, of a prehuman world, of a world that saw the evolution of humanity, of a future of unpredictable climates. By providing a biographical account of the aurochs and tracing its study across different historical and cultural contexts, the thesis demonstrates how objects like the aurochs can bridge disciplinary boundaries and bring together different approaches to knowledge. As episodes in this dissertation demonstrate, pursuit of holistic inquiry into an object of cultural and scientific salience can provide a helpful foil for historical expectations of how the object might otherwise have been cleaved. The scope of this thesis includes an informal network of aurochs interlocutors who pursued study of the aurochs from the nineteenth century to the present, and who integrated the different timescales of their fields of work to do so. It examines the aurochs through paleontology in nineteenth-century Europe, and in particular Britain and nineteenth-century Colonial India; turn-of-the-century British and American breeding and genetics institutions; Nazi Germany; and contemporary rewilding in the Netherlands. This thesis offers contributions to historical understanding of interdisciplinary research, and the challenges of studying systems with multiple time scales.

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Authors & Contributors
Bloch, D.
Grouw, H. Van
Beer, Gillian
Birkhead, Tim R.
Dooren, Thom Van
Francis, Kevin James
Archives of Natural History
Victorian Studies
British Journal for the History of Science
Journal for the History of Knowledge
University of Minnesota
Princeton University
University of California, Berkeley
Böhlau Köln
Columbia University Press
Princeton University Press
Natural history
Extinction (biology)
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Interdisciplinary approach to knowledge
Baudin, Nicolas
Darwin, Charles Robert
Gould, John
Lamotius, Isaac Johannes
Lesueur, Charles Alexander
Newton, Alfred
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
21st century
Early modern
17th century
Great Britain
New Zealand
Polar regions

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