Renowned for her work in environmental history, philosophy, the history of science, and ethics, Carolyn Merchant, PhD, wore many hats over the course of her career. She started out as an assistant professor and associate professor at the University of San Francisco, after which she joined the University of California Berkeley as an assistant professor. Dr. Merchant quickly realized she was where she was meant to be; she really connected with her students and peers. She spent the next 39 years there, and by the time she retired in 2018, she had advanced to the position of professor above scale. She also served the school as the chair of the Department of Conservation and Resource Studies and as the chancellor’s professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics.
Dr. Merchant’s work in these roles led to a number of accolades and honors over the years. She was notably selected as a grantee of organizations like the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the California Council for the Humanities, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Further, she was named a Fulbright fellow of Umea University in Sweden, John Simon Guggenheim fellow, a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and a visiting fellow of the School of Social Sciences at Murdoch University in Australia, as well as a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.
Outside the classroom, Dr. Merchant spent much of her time conducting and publishing research. She is particularly skilled at analyzing primary sources and synthesizing material into cohesive arguments, which served her well in this endeavor. One of the highlights of her career was publishing her first book, “The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution” in 1980. This still ranks as one of her most important contributions to the field; its reach has extended around the world. Some of her other publications include “Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender and Science in New England,” “Radical Ecology, The Search for a Livable World,” “Earthcare: Women and the Environment,” and “Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture.” Additionally, she completed books such as “Science and Nature, Past, Present, and Future,” “Autonomous Nature, Problems of Prediction and Control from Ancient Times to the Scientific Revolution,” and “Spare the Birds! George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society.” In recognition of her achievements, Dr. Merchant’s colleagues complied a volume honoring her work, “After the Death of Nature.”
To prepare for her journey, Dr. Merchant earned a Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1958 and both a Master of Arts and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1962 and 1967, respectively. She later received honorary doctorates from Umea University and the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Looking to the future, Dr. Merchant intends to release the humanities book she’s been writing through the Yale University Press.