The eighth International Congress for the History of Oceanography, or ICHO VIII, was held during the summer of 2008 in Naples, Italy. Generously hosted by the Stazione Zoologica, it maintained a long tradition of meeting in a setting that had served historically and contemporaneously as an important site for oceanographic work, joining earlier meetings in Monaco (1966), Edinburgh (1972), Woods Hole (1980), Hamburg (1987), La Jolla (1993), Quindao (1999), and Kaliningrad (2003). With the theme of “Places, People, Tools: Oceanography in the Mediterranean and Beyond” the congress attracted scholars contributing to discussions of oceanography in its national and institutional contexts, of leading contributors to oceanographic research, of the emergence of new oceanographic tools, and of selected oceanographic expeditions. All these presentations featured fresh historical perspectives, especially on oceanography within the Mediterranean basin.
ICHO VIII was a smaller meeting than some of the earlier ICHO meetings, an observation that deserves some comment. For much of the twentieth century, oceanography has been dominated by large-scale expeditions, often undertaken on impressive oceanographic research vessels, and financially supported by national and international objectives to understand the world’s oceans. It is important to emphasize that the latter aspect of twentieth-century oceanography paralleled the rise of the Cold War, especially as the US attempted to utilize oceanographic research in the development of methods to contain the Soviet Union. As a result, when the Cold War ended, some of the motivations to support oceanographic research diminished as well. Many participants at the Naples meeting recall the presentation of the director of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) at the La Jolla meeting, when he called for the conversion of ONR’s military-related research to peaceful purposes. However, and coupled with the economic crisis of the early twenty-first century, support for oceanographic research has declined internationally and, with it, support for ancillary social science research, such as the history of oceanography, has declined as well. Thus, meetings since the La Jolla meeting in 1993 have depended for support on the initiative or occasion of local and/or national celebrations with which an ICHO meeting could participate.
Despite the smaller nature of the meeting in Naples, those who attended and participated provided the first-rate historical presentations that make up these proceedings. As such, this volume adds to the impressive earlier publications that have been critical in the development of a body of literature thaat now comprises an important sub-discipline in the history of science, that of the history of oceanography.
Although it was difficult to locate substantial financial resources for the meeting, thanks need to be extended to the support provided by Roberto Danovaro, president of A.I.O.L. (Associazione Italiana di Oceanologia e Limnologia), from the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, and from the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science through its Commission on the History of Oceanography. Of course, this introduction would be incomplete without a very special word of praise for the dedicated work of Christiane Groeben in organizing the ICHO VIII meeting and then for her continued dedication in putting together this volume. We all owe her a great debt.