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Grant number like: FB-56565-12

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James Morton Turner
Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA 02481-8203)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$33,600 (approved)
$33,600 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2012 – 8/31/2012

An Environmental History of Batteries and a Culture of Mobility

Batteries were essential to 20th-century transportation and communications networks. Drawing on the tools of history of technology and environmental history, James Turner will write a history of 20th-century consumer battery technologies, with a focus on three case studies: lead-acid batteries and an early culture of mobility, dry-cell batteries and a "throwaway" society, and rechargeable batteries and a "clean-energy" revolution. Batteries offer a window into the complex historical relationship between technology and environmental sustainability. It is a story of degradation: the battery industry marred landscapes and poisoned communities in the United States and globally. It is also a story of innovation: battery technologies contributed to energy efficiency gains and pioneered materials recycling. Only by grappling with the cultural, material, and environmental dimensions of past technologies can we begin to chart our way toward a more just and sustainable future.