Jim Fleming

2006-07 AAAS Roger Revelle Fellow in Global Stewardship
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Jim FlemingJim Fleming says his love of science is so great that he doesn’t just practice; he studies its broader social and cultural manifestations for the benefit of scientists, the public, and future generations. The 2006-07 AAAS Roger Revelle Fellow in Global Stewardship spent his year in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars while on sabbatical from Colby College, in Waterville, ME, where he’s a tenured professor of Science, Technology and Society.

Jim was on a research leave in 2005-06, serving as the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, when he applied for the AAAS Roger Revelle Fellowship. He’s also been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. But Jim says his AAAS Fellowship was the most energizing and engaging. “Often when you’re on sabbatical, you’re warmly welcomed and then left to pursue your own interests at the library,” he says. “AAAS and the Wilson Center offered so many opportunities to get involved with policymakers, politicians, scholars, and the media. It was a very active and rewarding year.”

While writing a comprehensive history of weather and climate control at the Wilson Center, Jim collaborated with many media outlets, bringing a historical perspective to present-day problems. He served as an expert on how weather affects history for a Weather Channel series that ran in April 2007 called “100 Biggest Weather Moments,” he was interviewed for a BBC documentary on weather control, and he recorded a 30-minute interview on “The Climate Engineers” for the Dialogue television series produced by the Wilson Center. He also served on a National Research Council committee on “Scientific Accomplishments of Earth Observations from Space,” organized a symposium for the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting on “Sustaining the Global Climate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy,” and launched two books at the Wilson Center: The Callendar Effect, a biography of G.S. Callendar, who established the carbon dioxide theory of climate change; and Intimate Universality, which includes essays on local and global themes in the history of weather and climate.

Jim says of his experience: “Many scientists fail to communicate social issues well, and many elected and appointed officials don’t care about or don’t understand science. I have learned that historians of science and technology and social scientists have special perspectives. We can connect the different cultures and work together more productively on pressing scientific and technological issues.” Jim received his PhD in the history of science from Princeton University in 1988 and was elected a Fellow of AAAS in 2003; he also is chair of the AAAS History and Philosophy of Science section. At the end of his fellowship, Jim returned to Colby College, where he is completing work on his latest book, The Chequered History of Weather and Climate Control, to be published by Columbia University Press.