Carolyn Merchant Essay

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Dr . Carolyn Merchant is a leading U.S. expert in the fields of environmental history, ecological feminism, and the history of science. Dr. Merchant is Chancellor’s Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley where she has served as faculty since 1979. Merchant was born in Rochester New York and received a B.S. in Chemistry from Vassar College at a time when few women studied the subject. For graduate work she transferred her focus to the history of science, earning a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Merchant also holds an honorary doctorate from Umea University in Sweden.

In addition to numerous articles on the history of science, women and environment, and philosophy, Merchant is the author of half a dozen books. Merchant’s writings have expanded understanding of symbols of nature, the interaction between productive and reproductive forces in history, and the importance of ecological change in understanding social and economic history. Her seminal first book, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (1980), brought women and nature front and center in the history of science and established her as a pioneer in the field of environmental history. In The Death of Nature Merchant details major changes in the perception of the earth, science, and of the role of women in society as a result of the scientific revolution. This book was a founding text for the field of ecological feminism. Her Major Problems in Environmental History is widely viewed as the most extensive textbook in the field. In 1998 the American Society for Environmental History held a symposium on The Death of Nature, during which it was called one of the most influential books in environmental history, philosophy, and feminism.

As a founding member and past president of the American Society for Environmental History, she has been instrumental in bringing issues of race, class, and gender into the forefront of historical analysis of human interaction with nature. Carolyn Merchant’s more recent work has centered around an earth ethic, advocating bringing nature to the table as an actor in environmental decisionmaking. She currently teaches courses in American History, Philosophy, and Ethics at the University of California at Berkeley.


  1. Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (HarperCollins, 1980);
  2. Carolyn Merchant, Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (Routledge, 1992; 2nd , 2005);
  3. Carolyn Merchant, , Major Problems in American Environmental History (D.C. Heath, 1993; 2nd ed., 2005);
  4. Carolyn Merchant, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History (Columbia University Press, 2002);
  5. Carolyn Merchant, Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture (Routledge, 2003).

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