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To Victory with Vanadium!: Technology, Mining, and Transnational Science
March 19, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
While historians of science emphasize scientists in Europe, such as Marie Curie and Alexander von Humboldt, scientists in Latin America rarely receive a mention. Historians of Latin America neglect scientists in their discussions of institutions. Using letters and scientific treatises, this project examines the work of chemist and engineer Andres Manuel del Rio (1764-1849). This research argues that Del Rio challenged the Eurocentric model of science with his discovery of the element vanadium in Mexico. This finding coincided with the turmoil of the Wars of Independence (1810-1821) in the country, which emphasized geopolitical rifts and a break with European institutions. The element’s importance reaches into the twentieth century as it becomes crucial to the steel industry and the war effort. This presentation will examine how Del Rio’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. It will discuss Del Rio’s contribution to chemistry as well as his scientific legacy.
Rocio Gomez is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Arkansas and holds a PhD from the University of Arizona in Latin American History. Her research interests include Latin America, history of science, environmental history, and the history of medicine. Her first book, Silver Veins and Dusty Lungs: Water, Public Health, and the Environmental Legacies of Industry in Modern Mexico, 1834-1945, is under contract with University of Nebraska Press.
The event is free and open to the public; however, e-tickets are required.
Parking is free in Library parking lots and along the west side of Holmes Street between 51st and 52nd streets. The main entrance to the Library grounds is on Cherry Street. The Linda Hall Library is not affiliated with UMKC. Parking in all UMKC lots is by permit or meter.