Roger Turner ‘01
Roger Turner graduated in 2001 – a few years before Brown developed its official Science and Society concentration. With advisor Joan Richards, Professor of History, he developed an independent concentration in the History of Science. He also founded the Science Studies DUG in 2000.
His studies at Brown culminated in a thesis on “cloud seeding,” a scientific technique for modifying the weather. After first learning about the topic in an environmental studies course with Caroline Karp, Turner won a Royce Fellowship, which funded his research in western Kansas. “Weather modification had just been outlawed there, replaying a similar controversy that had occurred in rural Pennsylvania back in the early 1960s,” Turner says. “I interviewed farmers, meteorologists, and water managers, discovering that these controversies resulted from broken trust relationships, exacerbated by drought and scientific uncertainty. The farmers, understandably, did not want to yield potential control over precipitation to officials who they did not trust to have their best interests at heart. Weather modifiers interpreted this distrust as scientific ignorance, and stereotyped leading farmers as lazy ‘coffee-shoppers.’ The controversies then degenerated into an angry test of political strength, won by farmers who could persuade local government to outlaw cloud seeding.”
This early work led Turner to the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the History and Sociology of Science Department. His dissertation, titled “Weathering Heights,” examines how aviation and meteorology co-evolved during the first half of the 20th century. Cartoons played a unique role, used in meteorological training for pilots during World War II, and then in television weather reporting. He first noticed these entertaining and educational images while going through his collection of old weather-related books acquired over the years through eBay. To see some cartoons used in meteorological training and hear Turner’s commentary visit: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/home/SASFrontiers/turner.html
Turner is also involved in science policy through the American Meteorology Society, which runs policy program meetings in Washington D.C. Next year he’ll be a fellow at the Air and Space Museum. He hopes to eventually teach history or environmental studies at a university like Brown.