Talk: “Ancient Trees in Modern Times” by Jared Farmer, University of Pennsylvania
Thursday December 3, 2020 • Zoom Webinar
Just as modernity created antiquity, modern science created ancient trees. However, most old trees do not suit the needs of data-driven science. After looking for centuries for the “oldest living thing,” scientists finally found something both ancient and instrumental: the tree-rings of Great Basin bristlecone pines. In the end, the abstract science of dendrochronology recapitulated the material history of sacred trees. As proxies for past climates and as symbols of climate change, bristlecones cannot be more timely or timeful.
Jared Farmer is Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Farmer studies the overlapping historical dimensions of landscape, environment, technology, science, religion, culture, and law. His temporal expertise is the long nineteenth century; his regional expertise is the North American West.
Farmer has received fellowships and grants from institutions such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. His book On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Harvard University Press, 2008) won the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians. In 2014, the Dallas Institute presented him the Hiett Prize in the Humanities; in 2017, the Carnegie Corporation of New York named him an Andrew Carnegie Fellow; and in 2018, the American Academy in Berlin awarded him a Berlin Prize.
His recent peer-reviewed work includes “Executive Domain: Military Reservations in the Wartime West,” in World War II and the West It Wrought (Stanford, 2020); “Taking Liberties with Historic Trees,” in the Journal of American History (March 2019); and “Technofossil,” in Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene (Chicago, 2018). His current book project is a place-based planetary history of ancient trees and the problem of long-term thinking.
Read more about Dr. Farmer’s work on his Penn profile page and on his professional homepage. Prof. Farmer uses Instagram to record his landscape observations