Carolyn Merchant is a Distinguished Professor Emerita of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics at UC Berkeley who is interested in historical relationships between humanity, nature, and science with an ecofeminist focus on Western culture's domination of nature and women. Merchant was born on July 12, 1936, in Rochester, New York, where she and her younger sister, Ann, were raised by their mother, grandmother, and aunt. As a high school senior in 1954, Merchant became a national top ten finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. She earned her AB in Chemistry from Vassar College in 1958, studied physics for a year at the University of Pennsylvania, and then, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she earned her MA in 1962 and her PhD in 1967 in the History of Science. During graduate school, she met and married botanist Hugh Iltis, with whom she had two sons, David and John Iltis. Merchant and her sons moved to Berkeley, California, upon completing her PhD thesis and her divorce from Iltis. She taught the History of Science as a Visiting Lecturer at Oregon State University, in the Strawberry Creek College program at UC Berkeley, and as a Lecturer at the University of San Francisco, where by 1976 she became an Assistant Professor. Throughout the 1970s, Merchant engaged in feminist, environmental, anti-war, and anti-capitalist politics, which is how she first met historian Charles Sellers, whom she later married. Merchant joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1979, and in 1980 published The Death of Nature, which has been translated into numerous languages and strongly influenced the fields of the History of Science, Women's Studies, and Environmental History. Throughout her academic career, Merchant published numerous peer-reviewed articles and nine books on environmental research themes including science and domination, ecofeminism, gendered reproduction, and ethics, as well as four edited books. In this oral history, Merchant discusses all of the above, including details from her childhood and education, her personal relationships, and her academic career.




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