Paul Lucier

Independent Scholar

Paul Lucier is a historian of the earth sciences, mining technology, and the environment. He is interested in the evolution of ideas about the earth and how scientific theories and practices were involved in and influenced by the exploration and extraction of mineral resources.

Lucier's PhD thesis won the Princeton History Department's best dissertation award. He was a research fellow at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine and then received his first academic appointment at Birkbeck College teaching American history. He returned to the states to take up a visiting assistant professor position in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he taught for seven years. In the early 21st century, he accepted a fellowship at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT and moved to Rhode Island. He has taught at the University of Rhode Island and been a consulting historian for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Lucier has recently completed a book on nineteenth-century American geology, mineralogy, and chemistry and the role those sciences played in the rise of the coal, kerosene, and petroleum industries. Scientists and Swindlers: Consulting on Coal and Oil in America, 1820-1890 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) is a sweeping study of entrepreneurial science, or, as it was called, scientific consulting - a professional practice that marked the initial step in the commercialization of American science.

Lucier is currently at work on a book on the American West and the development of hard rock mining - gold, silver, and copper - in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In that setting, the new inter-disciplinary fields of economic geology, geophysics, and geochemistry emerged along with the United States Geological Survey (est. 1879). Science and the survey were inextricably linked to the spread of very large, very deep mines and very large, very highly-capitalized companies. In this interpretation, the mining of the American West was as much a scientific pursuit as it was an industrial enterprise.