- Faculty, History
- United States (Colonial times to the present); History of Science/Medicine/Public Health/Environment; World History
- Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University.
David Munns is an Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology at John Jay College, CUNY. He earned his M.Phil from the University of Sydney, and his Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. His published work encompasses the history of modern life and physical sciences and technology, environmental history, Anthropocene studies, and waste studies. He is the author of three books, mostly recently Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age. (Pittsburgh University Press, 2021), co-authored with Kärin Nickelsen, that reveals how the development of artificial life support systems were as important as the development of rockets in the space age. The book inverts the usual story of clean-cut astronauts into a messy and earthy ‘excremental history,’ about recycling waste, eating algae, and living in closed environments, ultimately describing how the effort to transport people away from Earth showed how interconnected the Earth's organisms and environments were. His second book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War, also with University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), enjoined historians of science to place plant physiology firmly in the center of the story of the life sciences in the twentieth century, not exclusively but complementary to the famed rise of genetics. Though the sciences of plant biology were completely different from the science of radio astronomy, his second book equally described how new technoscientific inventions and knowledge emerged alongside new scientific communities, a theme developed in his first book, A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy, with MIT Press.
With a broad teaching and research profile that additionally includes the history of early modern astronomy, the history of the atomic age, and the history of eugenics and euthenics, he is currently working on three interlocking projects. First, *TRONS: The Story of the Suffix that was the Twentieth Century, which compiles about 30 technoscientific devices and their stories carrying the suffix tron, including the Perceptron (the first image recognition computer), the Scantron (that scourge of education), the Arbitron (that has measured television ratings for decades) and the Golf-o-Tron (that indoor golf system that entertained New Jersey holidaymakers), connected to the ever-evolving website: www.worldoftrons.com. Second, Civilizing the Atom: Nuclear Engineers, Teaching Reactors, and the Atomic Age, another technoscientific history of teaching reactors, distinct from reactors for either weapons or power, that argues that what students gained from their education and experience in the midst of a Cold War was the knowledge and assurance that they could administer their modernist State. Thirdly, another co-authored work, this time with Allison Kavey, Not a Decree of Fate: A New History of Eugenics.
- David PD Munns, A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy. (MIT Press, 2013).
- David PD Munns, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).
- David PD Munns and Kärin Nickelsen: Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age. (Pittsburgh University Press, 2021).
- David PD Munns, “The Age of Biology,” History of Science 59 (2021): xx-yy. https://doi.org/10.1177/0073275320954123
- David PD Munns, “The Atom Goes To College”: The Teaching Reactors that Trained the Atomic Age.” In Legacies of the Manhattan Project: Reflections on 75 Years in a Nuclear World Michael Mays (ed.) (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2020): chapter 5.
- David PD Munns, The Suffix that Tells the Story of Modern Science.’ The Atlantic, Oct 26, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/history-of-trons/543687/
- David PD Munns, ‘ “Gay, Innocent, and Heartless”: Peter Pan in Popular Culture,’ in Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination Allison Kavey and Lester Friedman eds. (Rutgers University Press, 2008): 219-42.
- David PD Munns, ‘The Challenge of Variations: The Observational Traditions of Ptolemy and Aristotle, and Copernicus’ Heliocentric Solution,’ Nuncius 27:2 (2007): 221-257.