Philipp Nicolas Lehmann

Research Scholar
Research Scholars are early career scholars who have ordinarily already had at least one postdoctoral fellowship or equivalent academic experience. This is the equivalent of an entry-level academic position (e.g. assistant professor in North America, Lecturer in the United Kingdom, Maître de conférences in France). These scholars carry considerable responsibilities (no more than 30% of their time) within their research unit.
Department II
September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2017

I gained my PhD in History from Harvard in 2014. In my work, I combine themes and approaches from the history of science and technology with global environmental history, revealing the link between anxieties about environmental decline and designs to survey and control nature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am also preparing a book manuscript based on my dissertation research. Changing Climates: Deserts, Desiccation, and the Rise of Climate Engineering, 1870–1950 examines the impact of nineteenth-century discussions about climate change and desiccation on large engineering projects in desert regions. It demonstrates that the debate over the variability of global climatic conditions was a product of both internal academic and transnational political developments, and shows that the perceived threat of advancing desert conditions found a popular and technocratic expression in a long line of climate engineering designs from the Sahara to the Eurasian steppes.

Selected publications: 

Lehmann, P. N. (2017). Utopia. In I. Szeman, J. Wenzel, & P. Yaeger (Eds.), Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (pp. 365-368). New York: Fordham University Press.

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Lehmann, P. N. (2016). Infinite power to change the world: hydroelectricity and engineered climate change in the Atlantropa project. American Historical Review, 121(1), 70-100.

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Lehmann, P. N. (2015). Whither climatology? Brückner's climate oscillations, data debates, and dynamic climatology. History of Meteorology, 7, 49-70.

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Lehmann, P. N. (2014). Between Waterberg and Sandveld: an environmental perspective on the German-Herero War of 1904. German History, 32(4), 533-558.

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September 2016
University of Cambridge, U.K.
“Moving Problems: An Environmental Perspective on Immigration and Internal Migration in German Africa”
March–April 2016
Annual Meeting of the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH), Seattle, U.S.A.
“Good Trees, Bad Trees: Colonial Debates on the Climatic Impact of Forests”
March 2016
KTH Stockholm, Sweden
“Sensing Weather, Creating Climate: German Colonial Meteorology and the Dawn of Global Climatology”
October 2015
Meeting of the Society for the History of Technology, Albuquerque, U.S.A.
“Standardizing African Rain: Training, Technologies, and Practices in Colonial Meteorology”
April 2015
Fishbein Workshop in the History & Philosophy of Science, University of Chicago, U.S.A.
“Engineering a New Continent: Hydropower and Climate Modification in the Atlantropa Project”


Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 
Boltzmannstraße 22 
14195 Berlin