David Munns

Membership:  2017-2018

Member Bio

David Peter Dell Munns earned his PhD at The Johns Hopkins University in 2003. After teaching at Imperial College London between 2006 and 2009, he now teaches in New York City at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, promoting curiosity, scholarship, and enthusiasm among his students. His first book was entitled A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy (MIT Press, 2013). His latest book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest to Control Climate in the Cold War (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), explores the prehistory of the scientific understanding of climate change and the Anthropocene. His research and teaching stretch globally, including environmental history, the history of science and technology, American history, and postcolonial studies.


  To Live Among the Stars: The Cold War Crusade to Engineer an Artificial Environment for Space Travel
Lunchtime Colloquium Video - To Live among the Stars: Designing Artificial Environments


  • Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017.
  • “From the Algatron to the Zootron: The History of the Twentieth Century is a Story of Trons.” Annalen der Physik 529, no. 6 (2017): 1–6.
  • “The Phytotronist and the Phenotype: Plant Physiology, Big Science, and a Cold War Biology of the Whole Plant.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Part C, no. 50 (2015): 29–40.
  • “‘The Awe in Which Biologists Hold Physicists’: Frits Went’s First Phytotron at Caltech, and an Experimental Definition of the Biological Environment.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36, no. 2 (2014): 209–31.
  • A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.
  • “Controlling the Environment: The Australian Phytotron and Postcolonial Science.” British Scholar 2, no. 2 (2010): 197–226.