Thomas’s research interests lie at the intersection of history of science and historical geography. He gained his doctorate from the School of Geography at the University of Oxford in 2017. His thesis, titled “From Paradox to Policy: The Problem of Energy Resource Conservation in Britain and America, 1865–1981,” provided a history of energy resource conservation as both science and policy. Aside from this, amongst other things, he worked as a policy advisor for an environmental think tank, and on a project involved in preserving endangered languages. Before joining Department I, he was Life Members Fellow in the History of Electrical and Computing Technology at the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE).
His thesis documented the emergence of a body of knowledge that espoused the belief that society could act to conserve energy via the efficient use or cessation of fuel use. During the long twentieth century, this claim was articulated by researchers and policy advocates in a wide variety of fields, from control engineering to particle physics. Catalyzed by a series of energy crises, a science of “energy resource conservation” developed into a comprehensive approach to energy resource economy via a far-reaching set of policy recommendations. The history of this interplay between science and policy is told via a series of contested, resolved, and ongoing controversies regarding the efficacy of energy conservation measures.
Whilst at Department I, he intends to continue working on a book based on his doctoral research. He is also working on a historiographic study of energy transitions, addressing canonical energy histories of the Industrial Revolution. Alongside these projects, Thomas is also working on a series of studies on the role the concept of energy has played in the development of various human sciences, from geography to anthropology.
Turnbull, T. (2020). Toward Histories of Saving Energy: Erich Walter Zimmermann and the Struggle against “One-Sided Materialistic Determinism”. Journal of Energy History/Revue d'histoire de l'énergie (JEHRHE), 4, 1-21.Read More
Turnbull, T. (2018). Review of: Bonneuil, Christophe and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz: The shock of the Anthropocene. London: Verso 2017. Journal of Energy History/Revue d'histoire de l'énergie (JEHRHE), 1, 1-13.Read More
Turnbull, T. (2018). Simulating the global environment: the British Government’s response to 'The Limits to Growth'. In J. Agar, & J. Ward (Eds.), Histories of technology, the environment and modern Britain (pp. 271-299). London: UCL Press.Read More
Turnbull, T. (2017). I need a hero: reaffirming critical diagnoses of science-society relations. Review of: Thomas, William: Rational action: the sciences of policy in Britain and America, 1940–1960. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2015. Science as Culture…Read More