To Victory with Vanadium! Technology, Mining, and Latin American Science

Lunchtime Lectures
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a Lunchtime Lecture by Rocio Gomez, a Science Institute Fellow.

While historians of science emphasize scientists in Europe, such as Marie Curie and Alexander von Humboldt, scientists in Latin America rarely receive a mention. Even historians of Latin America neglect scientists in their discussions of institutions.

Using letters and scientific treatises, Gomez’s project examines the work of chemist and engineer Andrés Manuel del Río (1764–1849). Gomez will argue that del Río encountered bias against Mexican science despite his discovery of the element vanadium. This finding coincided with the turmoil of the Wars of Independence in Mexico (1810–1821), which emphasized geopolitical rifts and a break with European institutions. Vanadium’s importance reaches into the 20th century as it becomes crucial to the steel industry and the war effort. This talk will examine how del Río’s discovery shaped technology in the Wars of Independence in Mexico and the World War II effort while spurring the mining industry on both sides of the border.

About the Speaker

Rocio Gomez is an assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas and holds a PhD in Latin American history from the University of Arizona. Her research interests include Latin America, history of science, environmental history, and the history of medicine. At the Science History Institute she will be exploring the work of Andrés Manuel del Rio (1764–1849) and his scientific contributions to the history of chemistry, geology, and the modern mining sector. Her first book, Silver Veins and Dusty Lungs: Water, Public Health, and the Environmental Legacies of Industry in Modern Mexico, 1834–1945 (University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming), explores the effects of silver mining on the human body and water systems in Zacatecas, Mexico.

About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.