Etienne Benson standing in front of one of the MPIWG windows

Etienne Benson

Director (Since 2022)


Etienne Benson is Director of Department II, Knowledge Systems and Collective Life. His research focuses on the history of science, politics, and the environment in the United States and Europe from the eighteenth century to the present.

He is the author of two books, Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) and Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms (University of Chicago Press, 2020), as well as articles on human-animal relations, conservation and environmentalism, and the Earth and environmental sciences. His current work focuses on the political and scientific implications of the development of a quantitative science of landscapes in the mid-twentieth century.

Etienne Benson received his doctorate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008. He has held positions as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, a lecturer at the University of Chicago and New York University–Berlin, and a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. He held positions as assistant and then associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continues to teach as a visiting professor.

Office hour: Tuesday, 13:00–14:00, in person (room 216)



Rivers of Data


Databases and Data Communities in Animal Ecology


The Regulatory Archive: Science, Law, and Ethics in Biodiversity Conservation


Selected Publications

Benson, Etienne Samuel (2020). “Random River: Luna Leopold and the Promise of Chance in Fluvial Geomorphology.” Journal of Historical Geography 67: 14–23.

Read More

Benson, Etienne Samuel (2020). Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Read More

Benson, Etienne Samuel (2017). “A Centrifuge of Calculation: Managing Data and Enthusiasm in Early Twentieth-Century Bird Banding.” Osiris 32 (1): 286–306.

Read More

Benson, Etienne Samuel (2010). Wired Wilderness : Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife. Animals, History, Culture. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Read More

Past Events


Historical Epistemologies of Planetary Modelling


Nachrichten & Presse

Feature im Tagesspiegel zu Etienne Bensons Abteilung "Knowledge Systems and Collective Life"   


In Bildern: Das MPIWG stellt seine neue Abteilung „Knowledge Systems and Collective Life“ vor


IMPRS „Knowledge and Its Resources: Historical Reciprocities“ begrüßt seine zweite Kohorte


Medien & Digitale Ressourcen