All posts by Bruce Hunt

10 February 2023 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100 

Emma Pask (University of Chicago)

“Scientists on the Range: Ecological Fieldwork’s Place in Texas”

This presentation draws on material from the first chapter of my dissertation, which explores the idea of “the range” as a mythical geography in Texas and as a particular kind of ecological object. The dissertation as a whole asks: how does the history of Texas as a political unit and its attachment to land shape ecological research in the state? And how does ecological research, both in terms of its fieldwork and its theoretical propositions, in turn shape how Texans come to imagine this land? I go about trying to answer these questions in the first chapter by way of a historical and ethnographic analysis of “biogeography” as the backbone to much of ecology as a science. From the 1890s to the present, biogeography in Texas and more broadly has been preoccupied with determining species’ ranges. The rangeland management of different biological specimen is also crucial to solidifying certain economic and property regimes in Texas, from cattle ranching to cotton farming. This presentation sketches out possibilities for thinking more about “ranges” through a series of historical and contemporary examples, from turn-of-the-century biological surveys to contemporary cross-border research projects, with a special attention to bat species.


Emma Pask is a graduate student at the University of Chicago, currently doing research here in Austin.

POSTPONED due to inclement weather;

will be rescheduled later in the semester


3 February 2023 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100 

Jan Todd (UT)

“The Scientist and the Strongman: John Theophilus Desaguliers, Thomas Topham, and the Early Search for the Limits of Human Strength”

J. T. Desaguliers (1683–1744) was a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and a leading early popularizer of Newtonian science. In the 1710s he became fascinated with the question of human strength when he saw a German strongman performing some lifts that looked to him as if they were mechanically aided, fakery that he described at a Royal Society meeting. In 1733, Desaguliers brought the strongman Thomas Topham to a meeting of the Society. Topham had true strength and this “show and tell” event is recorded in the minutes of the Society. Desaguliers’s interest in strength also led him to invent one of the earliest dynamometers, an important instrument for measuring force.


Professor Jan Todd directs the Physical Culture and Sport Studies Doctoral Program in UT’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. She is also the founder (with her late husband Terry Todd) of the H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports and serves as its director. Todd’s research examines the history of exercise and body culture with a special emphasis on the history of strength and sports medicine.  Her most recent book is Strength Coaching in America: A History of the Innovation that Transformed Sports (UT Press, 2019; coauthored with Jason Shurley and Terry Todd).