New Books Network

David Munns

Engineering the Environment

Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War

University of Pittsburgh Press 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network June 24, 2019 Michael F. Robinson

“Phytotron” is such a great name for something that is, when you look at it, a high-tech greenhouse. But don’t sell it short! The...

“Phytotron” is such a great name for something that is, when you look at it, a high-tech greenhouse. But don’t sell it short! The phytotron was not only at the center of post-war plant science, but also connected to the Cold War, commercial agriculture, and long-duration space flight. Today I speak with David Munns, professor of history at John Jay College, about his new book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), but we also talk about Matt Damon, shitting in space, and growing pot in your dorm room.


Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He’s the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He’s also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.